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Natives of the Northern 

Territories of the 

Gold Coast 




r I ^HE first English Monograph on the ethnology of the 
Gold Coast Natives, based wholly upon personal observ- 
ation by a British official. It deals in a very interesting 
way with their 




Totem and i Birth and Marriage 

Land Tenure 

Daily Round 
Funeral Customs, 

and contains a GRAMMAR, a VOCABULARY (28 pp.), and 

a MAP 

\ With 23 Illustrations from A Q / 

) Photographs by the Author 1Z/O net 


[/' ronttsptecc 

The Natives of the Northern 
Territories of the Gold Coast 





v ^ 










IN these days, when the phenomenon generally 
termed " civilisation " is extending, to a greater 
or lesser degree, over the Continent of Africa, 
there is a growing tendency, that appears not only 
among European residents but among the natives 
themselves, to lose sight of the inner significance of the 
old-established native customs, which will, in course 
of time, inevitably disappear or become myths and 
" old wives' tales." It is for this reason that the 
publication of monographs on the ethnology of African 
tribes, such as that written by my colleague and 
friend, Mr. A. W. Cardinall, are to be welcomed. 
Many Europeans are too prone to sum up native 
customs as did the schoolboy, who, when replying to 
a question as to the manners and customs of the 
Ancient Britons, wrote, " Manners, vile ; Customs, 
beastly." But even those African native customs 
that appear to us both degrading and repulsive have 
in them the germ of some mistaken duty to parents 
and superiors : of reverence to ancestors, or to an 
unknown Being who exercises supreme power for good 
or ill over the lives and destinies of his devotees. Let 
us take, for instance, the practice of human sacrifice 
that flourished for so long among the Ashantis and 
other West African tribes. This terrible custom 
signified, in its origin, nothing more or less than a 
blind desire on the part of the native to " honour his 
father," or to pay due veneration to superiors. A 


deceased person was, and is, supposed to be met at the 
entrance of the Under-World by a Rhadamanthine 
Spirit, who questions him as to his status on earth. 
Gold and other valuable property buried with the 
deceased, which are supposed to accompany him to the 
Under-World, constitute but little evidence as to the 
owner's social position in life they might have been 
the result of successful trading or of theft but if he 
were accompanied by a band of men and women, who 
corroborated his statement that on earth he was a big 
Chieftain, the Judge would accord him that position in 
the Under-World where those immolated at the time 
of his burial would act as his constant attendants and 
servants. In the case of the Kings of Ashanti, fresh 
victims were despatched to them yearly, in order 
that their status in the " Ghost-World " might be 

In his Prefatory Note, Mr. Cardinall states that no 
work on the natives of whom he writes has, so far, been 
published in English. This is, I believe, a fact, but in 
justice to the Political Officers of the Gold Coast and 
its Dependencies, I would add that tribal customs have 
been carefully studied by them, and are embodied in 
many Reports that have been despatched to Head- 
quarters, and so to the Colonial Office. 

The Author has had the advantage of the assistance 
of the Peres Blancs, who are established at Navarro, 
and whose devoted work among the natives of that and 
the adjoining Districts has given them an insight into 
native manners and customs that is accorded to few. 

I cordially commend this work to all who are 
interested in -the study of the ethnological attributes of 
our West African tribes. 





SIR JAMES FRAZER says in one of his lectures : 
" The savage does not understand the thoughts 
of the civilised man, and few civilised men 
understand the thoughts of the savage." I do not 
claim to be one of these few. The following treatise is 
meant as a record of personal observations ; the 
reasons of the customs and practices recorded are 
beyond my powers, and can only be made known by 
those to whom there is time and opportunity for many 
comparisons and much reading. The object of my 
work is to try in a small way to help the newcomers of 
my race, be they merchant, soldier, or official, in know- 
ing a little of these interesting people whose innate 
industry and intelligence destine them in no long time 
to become a valuable asset of our Empire. 

So far as I can learn, only one other book has been 
published concerning the customs of these people. 
That is a work by Mons. Louis Tauxier, published in 
Paris in 1912. In that book the author treats of the 
tribes on the French side of the frontier nth parallel 
North and mentions the Boura, Kassouna Fra and 
Nankana, whom I call Builsa, their own name, Kassena 
and Nankanni. His remarks concerning the people on 
our side are naturally second-hand or comparative. I 
have not hesitated to quote from his very learned 

Concerning the Kassena, I have been aided most 
considerably by the notes and observations of the 
Rev. White Fathers stationed for nigh on fifteen years 
at Navarro, and by their quondam native schoolmaster, 


a Kassena youth, Bali Cypriani. To them I render 

My thanks are also due to the interest taken in my 
book and encouragement so generously given to me by 
H. E. Brigadier-General Guggisberg, C.M.G., D.S.O., 
Governor of the Gold Coast. 

Throughout I have taken the names employed by 
the people themselves to describe their tribe. Ordin- 
arily all of them are classed as Grunshi. That is a 
name given them by strangers such as Moshi and 
Mamprussi. Grunshi has been further divided by us 
into Fra-Fra, Grunshi and Kanjaga. The Fra-Fra 
included all the Nankanni, Nabdam and Talansi, and is 
a word derived from a form of greeting spoken by these 
people, who murmur by way of thanks or petition, 
" Fra-Fra," or " Fura-Fura " ; Grunshi has come to 
be particularly used for the Kassena ; Kanjaga is 
commonly but erroneously employed as the family 
name of the Builsa. 

The three words Grunshi, Fra-Fra and Kanjaga are 
always used to designate the tribal names of recruits, 
either military or police. Recruits did not usually 
present themselves direct to the white man, but were 
introduced by actual soldiers, who thus perpetuated 
the inaccuracy, and since it is almost the invariable 
custom for a man when changing his life to such an 
extent as to become a soldier to alter his name, the 
recruit made no effort to correct the fallacy. Thus 
it is that one reads on the -roster names such as Musa 
Grunshi, Adamu Kanjaga, Sulimanu Fra-Fra, etc., the 
man's real name being thus completely concealed. At 
the same time, of course, by such concealment it became 
difficult for an enemy to make evil medicine against one, 
since the evil spirits conjured to perform the ill deed 
would be unable to identify their victim. Thus it 
came about that the first Kassena was introduced by a 
soldier of another tribe as belonging to an undefined 
tribe which he had always classed as Grunshi ; a Builsa 


introduced by a fellow-tribesman who happened 
to have come from the community of Kanjaga assured 
the perpetuation of a tribal name, Kanjaga ; and a 
Fra-Fra was introduced by a foreigner who so desig- 
nated him. 

In describing these customs I have endeavoured to 
make clear how intensely individualistic all these 
people are. Before the arrival of the white man each 
compound formed practically a community apart, and 
being of mixed origin the customs observed by each 
community differed. But this characteristic of the 
people is nowhere so noticeable as in their religious 
practices. I have tried to point out how sorcerers play 
the most important role in the life of these people, and 
yet are themselves but the medium through which the 
individual determines for himself what action is 
necessary, what cause has brought about misfortune, 
what help is best. 

Like all these primitive people of black race, the 
desire to please the white man, to anticipate his 
wishes, makes it difficult to find out the true practices 
and the reason therefor. Direct questions are de- 
manded by the language, and an affirmative reply not 
only is presumably required by the questioner but 
saves a lot of trouble. Once, when trying to discover 
why certain forms of scare-thieves were used in the 
farms, the particular question was : " Why do you use 
an old bed mat ? " The answer came back : " I will 
say anything the white man wishes." Again, when a 
doctor was visiting the Chief of Zuarugu's compound 
he asked me what the inner wall of the huts was for. 
I told him it was a protection against a surprise by 
murderers or avengers. He laughed and said it was 
obviously to keep out the water, and asked the Chief 
if it was not so. The latter agreed. I left it at that. 
It would take too long to explain everything. 

I have mentioned that Moshi is the lingua franca 
of the Northern Territories. For many years it has 


been the custom to say that Hausa is spoken here, and 
one even sees written references to the Hausa traders 
and Hausa States North of Ashanti. It is time this 
ignorance was dispelled. There is practically no trade 
route available for Hausa traders. The whole of the 
trade is to French Territory and is northward, not 
north-eastward. As for the Hausa language being the 
recognised trade medium, that is a fallacy which found 
its origin in the old days when the soldiers were 
recruited mainly from Nigeria, and the few who came 
from either the Northern Territories or the adjacent 
French country had perforce to speak that tongue. 
To-day the Gold Coast Regiment is mainly composed 
of British subjects from the Gold Coast dependencies, 
and practically all speak dialects of Moshi or Twi. It 
is amusing to hear two men from Kanjaga community 
conversing with each other in a very corrupt, ill- 
spoken and ill-understood Hausa. They do so for the 
same reason that European clothing is coveted. It 
appeals to the love of swank natural to these people, and 
is as absurd as two English peasants conversing with 
each other in the French of their schooldays learnt in 
England from an Englishman who had never been to 

The Northern Territories have approximately 
400,000 people ; probably less than 2 per cent, speak 
Hausa, and those only in the centres of Salaga, 
Tamale, Gambaga and Wa. The black man here is a 
curious being. He will call himself Hausa if he 
thereby thinks he gains distinction or will please his 
white master, or sees other profit to himself in so 
doing, just as he will say he is a Mohammedan to his 
officers in order to maintain the Friday holiday, or 
when discharged to provide for himself a profitable 
trade in the sale of charms. In the two Districts 
dealt with by me a Fra-Fra who has acquired clothes 
and a horse will call himself either Mamprussi or Moshi 
in an attempt to show a superiority over his fellows. 


Of the trade possibilities of these two Districts I 
have written nothing. That is beyond the scope of my 
subject. Personally, I am convinced of their future 
wealth. The population is there ; cattle, especially 
sheep, thrive ; the market of the Colony seems in- 
exhaustible ; the land is rich, producing grain, fibre 
and ground-nuts in abundance ; the forest is un- 
touched as yet with its wealth of oils, barks and gums. 
Beeswax, cotton, kapok, strophanthus and grasses at 
present find a better sale on the spot, and European 
purchasers cannot compete with local prices. But, 
above all, the people are industrious the shortness of 
the farming season makes for that and show such 
energy in cultivation, as well as in the local manu- 
factures, that an Accra youth once remarked to me 
that these people would soon surpass in wealth and 
civilisation the forest-folk of the Colony and Ashanti, 
once the question of transport is solved. 

One cannot close this prefatory note without 
recording how these people of whom I write showed 
their indomitable courage during the recent war, 
immortalising their own name and that of their 
regiment in Togoland, the Cameroons and East 
Africa. It would be absurd to say loyalty to their 
white rulers prompted this. Many still alive look 
back with longing to the lawless freedom of the past, 
oblivious of its darker side ; the younger generation 
have not yet quite learnt to grasp the meaning of 
liberty, since they perforce are brought up to hear the 
stories of a past made more glamorous by distance and 
the self-glorification of their narrator. Besides, the 
very idea of loyalty is rooted in antiquity. Twenty 
years are not enough for so fine ,a plant to sprout. 
No ; it was their manliness, their intelligence, their 
desire to learn that made them seize the opportunity, 
urged them to discard wholesale all the numbing 
influence of their old surroundings and practices and 
established for ever the innate bravery of their race. 


They have broken away from their traditions, their 
future looms bright, and in no long time they will 
neglect and forget these hampering fetters of age-old 
custom which in the following pages I have en- 
deavoured to record. 

A. W. C. 







III. RELIGION - - - 22 


VI. LAND TENURE - - "57 



IX. THE DAILY ROUND (continued) " - 95 



LANGUAGE - - - I 13 

VOCABULARY - - - - 1 31 



































OF the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast 
little has been recorded, although they have 
been well known to white men for more 
than twenty years. Situated in the far North close 
to the French Soudan are the two administrative 
districts of Navarro and Zuaragu. They are bounded 
on the north by the -eleventh parallel of latitude the 
arbitrary international boundary between the French 
and British possessions and on the east, west, and 
south by the Red Volta, Sissili, and White Volta rivers. 
The area is roughly some i ,200 square miles in extent, 
and is peopled by mixed races, of which the principal 
tribes are Nankanni, Nabdam, Talansi, Kassena, and 
Builsa, numbering about 200,000. The country itself 
is undulating, with numerous streams running south- 
ward to the White Volta and becoming deep and wide 
rivers in the months of August, September, and 
October. Here and there rise prominent chains of 
hills, generally of a most rocky character, presenting 
in parts some excellent scenery. There is, comparatively 
speaking, very little uncultivated land, and that lies 
chiefly along the valleys of the larger rivers and is what 
is commonly called orchard bush. 


One remarkable feature about the Districts is that 
nowhere is a town to be found, not even a resemblance 
to a village. It is asserted that in the past villages did 
exist, but there are to-day no signs of them, and even 
in the thicker portions of the bush in fact, every- 
where one comes across ancient middens of which 
the origin is unknown and which are situated at a 
distance one from the other as are the dwelling-places 
of the people to-day. The distance from compound 
to compound varies from 50 yards to the recognised 
length of a good bow-shot, say 200 yards. But the 
people are in no case the aboriginal inhabitants. These 
are unknown, and, except for innumerable stone imple- 
ments, have left no trace. The middens in the bush 
are of more recent origin, as prove the trees which cover 
them, the pottery lying exposed and in many cases 
the tailings from ancient iron-smelting. Even in the 
clusters of trees which to-day generally are the 
sacrificial places clusters so much thicker than one 
usually finds in the bush, as might lead one at first 
glance to believe they were remains of the original 
forest one can still find middens, proving beyond 
doubt that the present forest grew over the land after 
it had been cultivated by man. 

\Of the present inhabitants the history is vague, and 
it is necessary meseems to know a little of the general 
history of the Northern Territories to understand why 
and whence these several and different tribes came to 
establish themselves in so small an area. For this 
general history native tradition would seem fairly 
reliable, and in some essential features it is corroborated 
by the written " Tarikh-es-Soudan," the work of an 
inhabitant of Timbuktu, one Abderrahman-Es-Sa'di, 
who lived in the seventeenth century, and by the 
earlier manuscript Tarikh-el-Fettach pf Mahmud 
Kati. Both manuscripts have been recently trans- 
lated into French by O. Houdas, and serve to record 
that at least two 'hundred and fifty years ago the oral 


traditions of these people were the same as they are 

Native tradition is remembered and perpetuated 
not at haphazard by stories told round the evening 
fires, but by special families attached to the courts of 
the greater chiefs, the sole duty of such families being 
to recite in chanting and to bring up to date the epic 
of their race. 

I learned some of the following story from the tradi- 
tionist attached to the court of the Na (king) of Yendi, 
and in M. Tauxier's work is recorded a tradition, most 
corroborative to the one I heard, which was related at 
the court of the Na of Wagadugu. For the practical 
purpose of this study the following is the story. 

Very early in the Christian era there lived in a cave 
among the hills round Mali, which tradition places far 
to the east, a man most loathsome to behold. He is 
described in details most revolting. He dwelt alone, 
but had acquired the reputation of an intrepid hunter ; 
and one day, when the people were hard pressed by their 
enemies and disaster seemed in sight, they sent for this 
hunter to aid them in their need. He came, and his 
frightful appearance alone so terrified the foe that 
victory came to the people of Mali. The huntsman 
returned to his cave and refused all presents and 
thanks for his timely assistance. 

Once again his services were called for in similar 
circumstances, and again he triumphed. This time 
the Mali people insisted on rewarding him, and he 
received as wife their chief's daughter. By this 
marriage a son was born a one-eyed giant of an aspect 
even more revolting than his father. Inheriting his 
father's skill in warfare and the chase, the young man 
soon made himself a leader over his fellows, and 
shortly after reaching'manhood he led a band of them 
westward to found a r new country, as their own had 
been devastated by famine. 

This band eventually came to a 'town not far from 


the White Volta. Here the young man sat down at 
the watering-place, whither towards evening came the 
young women of the place. From them he learned 
that the city was the abode of the great tindana of the 
country (tindana means literally " owner of the 
land ") and he accompanied the girls back, accepting 
the hospitality of one whose beauty particularly 
attracted him. She was the only daughter of the 

Arrived at her home, he was hospitably received by 
the father and sojourned awhile in the house as an 
honoured guest until the great day of the annual 
sacrifice. For this event people from all the country- 
side foregathered, as it was, and still is, an event of 
national importance. The tindana^ as he does to-day, 
was to perform the sacrifice, and retired early to his 
bed. That night the young man murdered his host, 
and when morning came presented himself to the 
people dressed in the sacred robes of his victim. 
(Rumour says these are still preserved at Yendi, and 
consist of a black cap, black gown, and a string of 
yellow beads.) The populace was awed at the loath- 
some spectacle of the one-eyed giant and afraid to 
touch the sacred emblems of the office he had usurped. 
At the same time the youth's followers loudly ac- 
claimed their chief and threatened to massacre any dis- 
sentients they heard murmuring against him. His 
triumph was complete. He married the daughter of 
the unfortunate tindana^ and so founded the royal 
family of the Dagomba ; with the aid of his own 
followers and the over-awed townsfolk he raided and 
conquered the neighbouring country, and thus there 
began an empire which is often called the greatest 
ever founded in pagan Africa the tri-dominion of 
Dagomba, Moshi, and Mamprussi. 

It is curious how traditional history almost always 
reduces its beginnings to the story of a single man. To 
learn the above a sacrifice of a sheep to the departed 


is necessary and the names of all are chanted to the 
accompaniment of loud drumming. Unfortunately I 
lost my notes containing these names the youthful 
murderer, the tindana, the girl, and the village in a 
mail sunk by the Germans. 

From now on the traditional history is less imagina- 
tive and the list of kings is preserved. The kingdom 
grew apace arid soon stretched from the Oti river to 
the Black Volta, from the forest belt to the rocky and 
hilly country which lies more or less along the eleventh 
parallel of latitude. 

The founding of the second sister kingdom, that 
of Mamprussi, is then related. The tribes lying 
between the two Voltas revolted and met the royal 
forces near Daboya, but on the east of the river. Defeat 
of the royalists was imminent, when the Na's daughter 
Poko(lit., woman) seized a horse to the astonishment 
of all men, since women cannot ride and crying out 
words to the effect that it were better to die than to 
live in servitude, led the amazed royalists to victory. 
But being only a woman, she could not stop the horse 
a stallion which carried her away from the battle 
for many miles, nor did he stop till he reached the 
shade of a great tree near Gambaga. There she 
descended and, being tired, fell asleep. To her came 
a man of the Busansi tribe (a tribe still settled scarce 
twenty miles away, but mostly in French territory). 
Struck with admiration at her beauty, he had inter- 
course with her while she slept, and on her waking 
told her what he had done. Ashamed to return, she 
lived with him and was mourned as lost by her royal 

The result of their intercourse was a son named 
Widirago (stallion after the animal whose escapade 
had brought about the union). As he grew up, he 
developed into a youth of great strength and beauty. 
His mother sent him to her father, the Na of Da- 
gomba, who received him with delight and many 


presents. As the boy grew to manhood ;he*gave every 
sign of being a great chief, and his grandfather allocated 
to him the vast district round Gambaga, which to-day 
is known as the kingdom of Mamprussi. 

Such is the ]story I learned of the foundation of 
these two kingdoms. That of Moshi is later, and the 
following is the account given by M. Moulins, who was 
the French agent for native affairs in the Moshi 
country between 1907 and 1909. 

" Tradition says that some thirty- five generations 
ago the king of the Dagomba, who resided at Gambaga, 
had a daughter named Poko, whom he allowed to grow 
in age and beauty without troubling himself to provide 
for her a husband. The young girl was so displeased 
with this that she did not hesitate to flee from the 
paternal roof on a horse which she had taken. 

" She reached the country where to-day is Yanga, 
at that time peopled by a scattered population of 
Busansi, and fell in love with an elephant-hunter 
named Riar, by whom she had a son who was named 
Widirago (perhaps in memory of the horse having 
helped Poko in her flight from Gambaga, for widirago 
means stallion). 

" When Widirago was fifteen years old, Poko sent 
a messenger to Gambaga with instructions to tell the 
King of the Dagomba, ' You did not wish me to 
marry, but God has given me a son whom I ask you to 
help.' Then she sent Widirago to present himself to 
his grandfather, who received him very kindly and 
gave him four horses and fifty bulls. 

" The Kingdom of Dagomba was at that time over- 
populated." (This is evidently true, for no matter 
where one walks in the bush, one will everywhere 
come across middens and other signs of a former dense 
population.) " So when Widirago returned to the 
country of Tenkodugu (i.e., near Yanga) a great 
number of Dagomba attached themselves to his 
fortunes and followed him. He founded with his 


band, on a site abandoned by the Busansi on his 
approach, a village which he named Tankuru, and 
which to-day is Tenkodugu. 

" From this time his power continued to grow with 
the continual arrival of Dagomba, who came in crowds 
to follow his authority. On the other hand, the 
neighbouring populations were few and divided. 
Thus he was able to impose his overlordship on them. 

" Meanwhile Widirago had married and had 
numerous sons. When they grew up he made them 
chiefs over the neighbouring districts, notably at Fadi 
N'Gurma, imposing by force his will on those who 
did not willingly submit." 

At that time the country known to-day as Moshi 
was peopled by the Nimsi and Grunshi, who, without 
any central authority, warred continuously with each 
other. The head of one of these Nimsi settlements 
sent Widirago one of his daughters as a present, and 
the Dagomba chieftain gave her to his son Zungurana, 
who had by her a son Oubry. 

Some time later the Nimsi again sent to Widirago, 
asking him to take their country under his protection. 
He accepted their offer, but died while marching 
through his protectorate at Sarabutenga. Zungurana 
succeeded his father and gave to Oubry, his son, the 
governorship over the Nimsi. 

In course of time Oubry became a great warrior 
and conqueror. He took Wagadugu and created what 
is to-day the kingdom of the Moshi. After his death 
the Moshi-speaking empire continued to grow until it 
stretched from Timbuktu to Salaga, from the confines 
of the kingdom of Borgu to the outposts of the great 
Mandingo empire. It included numerous tribes of the 
aborigines, and swept round remnants of these and other 
tribes fugitive in the hilly regions or in the marshy plains 
where the Moshi horsemen were unable to penetrate. 
It is with some of these remnants and fugitives that 
this treatise proposes to deal. 


One cannot but be struck by the similarity of the 
two accounts' Moshi and Dagomba- and it would 
seem evident that the ruling people have certainly 
come from the east. The Moshi carried on their 
conquests and, from the Tarikh-es-Soudan, were in 
possession of Timbuktu itself. Their occupation of 
this historic city was of but brief duration, prob- 
ably early in the fourteenth century, and is recorded 
thus : 

" It is, we are told, the Sultan Kankan-Musa who 
built the minaret of the great mosque of Timbuktu, 
and it was during the reign of one of the princes of his 
dynasty that the Sultan of the Moshi, at the head of a 
great army, made an expedition against this ,town. 
Seized with fear, the men of Melli fled and abandoned 
Timbuktu to its assailants. The Sultan of Moshi then 
entered the town, sacked, burnt and destroyed it, and 
after having slain all whom he succeeded in seizing, 
and having taken possession of all the wealth he could 
find, he returned to his own country. The men of 
Melli returned then to Timbuktu and ruled there 
again for a hundred years." 

The author of the Tarikh cites in corroboration an 
unknown work by one Ahmed Baba. 

It is presumably about this time that the Moshi 
conquered the Dagati country, which lies to the west 
along the Black Volta and to the north of Wa, which 
Dagomba tradition claims as theirs. 

Thus the great Moshi-speaking empire encircled 
the districts about which I write approximately five 
hundred years ago. It would appear that where they 
were able to make use of horses in their warfare they 
were triumphant. Both Tarikh recount attacks on them 
by Mohammedan rulers, but at no time till the arrival 
of the French were the Moshi subdued leastways, 
there seems no record of such an event. Meanwhile 
Busansi and Grunshi (Iss'ala and Kassena) main- 
tained an independence in the midst of Moshi, 


Mamprussi, and Dagomba. The great rivers and rocky 
hills of the country seem to account for this ; but a 
more or less peaceful penetration by bands of exiles, 
fugitives, and robbers took the place of warlike invasions, 
and these sought to establish a form of government 
similar to that of their homeland. 

At some time, probably towards the middle of the 
eighteenth century, the Ashanti power was at its 
zenith, and in Dr. Claridge's " History of the Gold 
Coast and Ashanti " the king of Ashanti, Osei Opoku, 
is named as the conqueror of Dagomba. At Yendi the 
record of the defeat is passed over, but the fact remains 
that there lives to-day at Yendi an Ashanti, a visitor 
to his uncle there, who, before the advent of the 
Germans, acted as a kind of consul and tax-gatherer. 
The tax, I was told, amounted to the annual payment 
of 2,000 slaves. In 1821 the British Consul at Kumasi, 
Mr. J. Dupuis, records in his " Journal of a Residence 
in Ashantee " that the Dagomba capital Yendi, and 
other large towns of the country, pay as an annual 
tribute five hundred slaves, two hundred cows, four 
hundred sheep and cloths, and that smaller towns are 
taxed in proportion. 

The Grunshi, Busansi, Konkomba, Tchokossi, and 
other independent tribes were raided regularly to 
procure the necessary number of slaves, and when hard 
put to it the Na of Dagomba asked his relatives of 
Mossi and Mamprussi to help him in his payment. Be 
it noted that these three kingdoms seem never to have 
forgotten their family ties, and to this day observe the 
relationship by an interchange of messengers on all 
occasions of great national importance. 

About 1860 the tribute was not forthcoming, and 
the Na of Dagomba sought the aid of some Zaberimi 
raiders to collect the slaves for him. The Zaberimi 
were living to the north-east of Fadi N'Gurma, the 
most easterly of the Moshi kingdoms, and had the 
reputation of being valiant warriors and horsemen. 


The offer was accepted and]the Zaberimi became for 
a short time a sort of mercenary irregular force 
attached to the court of Yendi. From time to 'time 
their services were in request by petty Chiefs of the 
Dagomba or Moshi blood who were endeavouring to 
set themselves up in the old way. They repeated the 
story of the Saxons in our own country, and proved a 
great nuisance and embarrassment to one of these 
petty Chiefs, who sought the assistance of the Na to rid 
him of his noxious allies. The Na defeated the 
Zaberimi, who sought refuge with another petty 
Chieftain, one Musa, a Mohammedan Issala, who was 
busy founding a kingdom around Sati, a village which 
lies close to the present international boundary. 
Musa not only sheltered the fugitive Zaberimi, but 
aided them to revenge their defeat. A second battle 
took place, with the result that the Dagomba were 
utterly routed and had to flee across the Volta. The 
Zaberimi then turned on Musa and slew him, and 
established their dominion over the whole of the Issala 
country, whence they raided north, south, east and 
west. From time to time they suffered defeat, but 
the unorganised tribes had no cohesion, and victory 
did but serve to reawaken the jealousy and mutual 
distrust which disaster had only momentarily concealed. 

On the death of GazarL the leader of the Zaberimi, 
dissension broke out between Babatu and Hamana. 
The latter was forced to flee. Fortunately for him, 
the French had reached Wagadugu, and in September, 
1896, he came to them as King of Grunshi and entered 
into a treaty of protection. His claim to the country 
of Grunshi was absurd, but at the time gave the French 
the opportunity to produce a treaty of protection over 
a country to which we could at the time produce no 
title at all, since it was a land of which our emissary in 
1894 had reported there was no Chief of sufficient 
standing with whom a treaty could be made. 

Babatu meanwhile had continued the annual 


raiding, sustaining a severe defeat at Sandema from the 
temporarily united Builsa. He was forced to recross 
the Sissili river to recuperate, and on his return met 
the French forces near the same place, and by them was 
utterly and finally routed, so that he had to seek safety 
with the British, who had reached Yagaba. 

Eventually the British and French came to an 
agreement and the eleventh parallel was fixed as the 
boundary, thus dividing the Kassena and Nankanni 
tribes more or less equally between both parties. 

In these two districts each community each 
family even still preserves the tradition of the place 
whence its founder came ; and a few examples will 
show how mixed in blood the people have become. 
For instance, in Navarro there are Sections which 
trace their origin to Zekko, to Po ; a Section of 
Kologu came from near Kibelli ; parts of Mayoro 
came from Kayoro, which in turn is said to have come 
from near Kibelli. The whole of the Builsa country is 
inhabited by families which have migrated from far to 
the west, to the north in fact, from all points of the 
compass. The Nankanni assert that some came from 
what to-day is called Mamprussi, some from the far 
north, and some from Dagomba. It is the same with 
Talansi and Nabdam. It would seem that in the past 
the country was, so to speak, in a state of flux. The 
causes contributory to this state of things are numer- 
ous, but it is not possible to learn the origin of each 
family. The Section of Bongo, to which the present 
Chief himself belongs, came from Mamprussi, exiled 
thence for treason against the Na (king). They 
settled at Bongo on the invitation of the Awubugu 
people, who were hard pressed by invading families of 
the Fra people, traces of whom are to-day found in 
Nakon. The Mamprussi were triumphant and re- 
mained in the land and intermarried with the Awubugu, 
who to-day are known no more. Their success 
persuaded others, for some unknown reason, to follow. 


Families crossed from Mamprussi and settled on the 
land which forms parts of Gawri, Via, and Zokko. Via 
preserves the tradition by regarding the crocodile as 
taboo, for they say that when crossing the Volta they 
left their father behind. He was too old to cross, but 
a crocodile offered him free transport, and, this being 
accepted, the old man came safely over the river on its 
back. This friendly help gives the reptile immunity 
to this day in Via. Most of Zokko and Gawri people, 
however, both kill and eat it. 

A similar story is told of the Chief's family at 
Tongo. They came from Mamprussi and met the 
Gungu people near the Tong Hills. Land was 
provided them, and in course of time the Gungu 
element disappeared. The hill people, who until 
comparatively recently have endeavoured to maintain 
their independence, migrated to the hills from Nasia, 
on the border-line of Mamprussi and Dagomba. 
There had been an inter-family war at Nasia and the 
vanquished had fled as far as the Tong Hills. 

At Nangodi the Chief's family is from Mamprussi 
and of the blood-royal. Its founder had waged war 
against his relative the Na, and, being driven into exile, 
came with his followers to Nangodi, where the Nabdam 
people gave them land. 

The present Chief is the fortieth of his line. With 
an average rule of five years, the Mamprussi occupation 
would therefore be some two hundred years. The 
number of Chiefs is preserved by a collection of stones. 
Bolgatanga traces its origin from Fadi-N'gurma. 

But in all these histories it must be remembered 
that they apply only to the family of which their 
narrator happens to belong. The names of Bongo, 
Zokko, etc., are not the names of families or com- 
munities ; they are the names of certain districts or 
divisions of the land. Thus in Navarro, which covers 
an area of between twenty to twenty-five square miles 
and includes twenty-five sections, all of which have 


\ (,U()l I' ol \ \\K.\\\I. 

[/ace p. 13.] 


names, there are as many histories as there are divisions, 
and a man from one section visiting another says he is 
going to Navarro, no matter what his direction. 

The story of Paga is that they come from Kibelli. 
Three brothers had fought against their family and 
been worsted. They had to flee, and with them went 
their sister. These three came to Paga and founded 
families there, and gave their sister that part of the 
land which is called Paga-bru. Gania section of 
Navarro was founded by a hunter from Po. He had 
wounded a buffalo which fell down at Kulnaba, its 
horns excavating the lagoon which is found there. 
While admiring his kill there came to him a man of 
Biung. The two made friends, and later the Biung 
man gave his daughter to him from Po and land near 
where the beast was slain. Thus came Gania ; but 
since that time the family has moved a little to the 
east, but their old dwelling-places are still known and 
can easily be seen by the middens in the bush near 
Kulnaba. j | 

Thus private quarrels, family quarrels, tribal 
quarrels have practically everywhere peopled the 
land, with here and there a community founded by a 
hunter or some individual of great prowess. But it is 
interesting to note that the sections named Biung (a 
word of forgotten meaning) nearly always lay claim 
to the fact that they themselves were from the earth 
and that their ancestors dwelt in holes in the ground. 
I have never been able to persuade one of these people 
to show me these caves or holes, although, both at 
Navarro and at Zuaragu, Biung sections exist. 

Such is the traditional history of the past a long 
record of migration and its causes. (Other details are 
forgotten and no outstanding event is remembered 
until the recent advent of Babatu, the contemporary 
and rival of the slave-raider Samory. Zuaragu District 
was unaffected by this chieftain, but he left his mark 
at most places in Navarro District, laying waste most 


of the land of the Builsa and harrying and enslaving 
the people settled between the rocky hills near Zokko 
and Tiana. The story of Babatu and Samory has 
yet to be written. It is a modern tale and brings the 
history of these Districts down to the advent of the 
white man, when Babatu, in flight from the French, 
eventually 'found refuge at Yendi, where he died. 



COMING as these people have from all direc- 
tions, and living apart the one from the other 
in compounds which are to all intents 
nothing else than fortresses surrounded by farm lands 
and patches of pasture, it is evident that there could be 
but little unity or cohesion, either in their customs or 
their government. Thus it is extremely difficult to 
discover what are the practices of the land. Similarity 
in general there exists, but in details it is often hard 
to reconcile the different habits to one origin. 

The language of the people naturally differs too, 
but is obviously of one origin' a language which seems 
to cover the whole of the land in these parts, from north 
of the Twi-speakers to the Bambara and Fulani tribes 
of the Niger. I know of no name to this tongue. It 
is found among Konkomba, Dagomba, Moshi, Mam- 
prussi, Kusasi, Nankanni, Nabdam, Builsa, Dagati, and 
Lobi. The so-called Issala Grunshi, Fra people, and 
Kassena Grunshi could not be understood by the 
others, but undoubtedly, were these dialects to be 
written, distinct traces and similarities would be 

)But apart from this divergence of dialects, there is 
one great similarity in all these tribes. And that is 
the institution of the tindana (Moshi, Mamprussi, 
Dagomba, etc.), tigatu (Kassena), tengyona (Builsa), 
tengsoba (Moshi). This is the owner of the land, 
which in every case is the literal meaning of the word. 


It does not matter from whom one seeks the origin of 
the term and its institution. Everywhere the same 
story is related. The tindana was the original owner of 
the land, and is so to this day. 

M. Tauxier explains in his " Le Noir du Soudan " 
how their existence is very probably due to the super- 
position of a conquering on the conquered race. To a 
certain extent that is absolutely true. Not only in 
Moshi, but also in Mamprussi and Dagomba, the Chiefs 
are not of the blood of the people of the land. As 
related above, they keep preserved by special court 
traditionists the story of their arrival in the country 
and their seizure of the chief ship as well as their 
subsequent history. These traditions agree in that 
the first arrivals of these Chief -families seized and slew 
the tindana of the land and thus came to them their 
overlordship. At Yendi, for instance, the Na of 
Dagomba preserves to this day the cap, gown, and 
necklace which were the insignia of the principal 
tindana., whom his forefather slew. But the Na has 
never dared to arrogate to himself the duties of tin- 
dana. In fact, he humbles himself before him and 
appears disguised as a poor man when occasion arises 
for him to visit the tindana. For the latter not only 
owns the land, but by reason of his ownership is the 
only one who knows or is known to the spirit of the 
land. And it is worship of the earth-gods that is 
common throughout the country. It is said that there 
is no place without a tindana^ and to this day when 
people move into uninhabited country, owing, perhaps, 
to the poverty of soil in their own, they obtain the 
land from the tindana who is nearest to the site of the 
new settlement. 

There is not one god of the earth there are 
many. Each community has at least one ; and the 
tindana, who naturally was the head of the first 
family that settled there, became its ruler. And in 
these parts remote from the organised constitution of 


Dagomba or Moshi, as time went on, the first family 
grew into many families, and though the tindana-ship 
remained in the hands of one man, the new families 
would no longer of necessity obey him. Thus there 
grew up a distinction between the overlordship of the 
land and that over the people. So long as the family 
remained in one compound, so long the tindana who 
inherited the title, and was ipso facto head of the 
family, controlled them. But when the younger 
families fell out and divided themselves and founded 
new compounds, then the tindana lost control over 
them and became nothing more than the high priest 
of the local Earth-god, the interceder between the 
people and the spirit which gave them the wherewithal 
to live. Moreover, in course of time, new people would 
arrive and ask permission to settle. The tindana 
would give them land, and though they recognised him 
as the landowner, they naturally turned to their own 
blood for a ruler over them. This goes on to-day ; one 
could quote many examples. The following, however, 
I think explains the whole process. 

In the south-eastern corner of the Navarro District 
is an area of fairly thick bush (signs of former in- 
habitants, however, are everywhere). A forgotten 
number of years ago a hunter passed that way and 
decided to settle. Without propitiating the spirit of 
the land he could not do so. He therefore went to the 
nearest tindana, who was living at Buguyinga, some 
twelve miles away, and by him was appointed tindana 
of the proposed settlement. Returning to the chosen 
spot, he built his compound and called the place 
Gu'nua. In course of time a family came from the 
north, and, liking the country, asked the Gunua 
tindana for land. He pointed out the land called 
lassi, but did not appoint a tindana. Still later more 
migrants arrived, and thus round Gunua there began to 
spring up communities from various sources, each 
acknowledging the sway of the head of their own 



particular family, but each admitting the tindana as 
their interceder between them and the Earth-god. In 
course of time more people came, and to-day, forming 
the community of Godemblissi, recognise a Chief of 
Builsa blood and a tindana of unknown origin 

The Chiefs of the people in these parts are a new 
creation. [Until comparatively recent time the head 
of the family or compound sufficed. There are three 
distinct sources of 'the Chief ship. ] ) 

Above I have 'referred jto the |slaying of ]an im- 
portant tindana and the seizure by his murderer of 
the insignia, or what in reality is the " medicine," 
which gives authority and power. It is obvious that if 
one man rises or stands out pre-eminent among his 
fellows, some outside agent is the cause ; since without 
extraneous aid how could one man differ from another ? 
The Na of Dagomba thus came by his authority (the 
traditions of Mamprussi differ in detail but are similar 
in all that is essential). He delegated his power's to 
his sons, and so in course of time every community in 
Dagomba was ruled over by a Chief (naba), and these 
Chiefs could rise by promotion to the Na-ship itself, 
provided the candidate was the actual son of a Na and 
had reached the Chief rank next to that of Na. The 
constitution is most elaborate, but does not concern, 
except in its effects, the two Districts in question. 

(Rivalry between Chiefs became acute in spite of the 
blood ties, and in consequence civil wars were common, 
especially when the time for promotion arose, which 
was usually at the death of a naba, although the Na 
reserved to himself the right of creating as many as he 
liked, since each of his sons was entitled to a naba-ship 
of sorts. And usually in these civil wars, or in cases of 
a naba committing adultery with one of the Na's wives, 
the offender was punished by exile and forfeiture of 
any right to reach the Na-ship. These exiles were 
frequently sent to the far distant extremes of the 



[face />. 18.] 


YIK\Y ()! TON(, HILLS WITH A TALANM < '< >\! |'< >r \ | > f\ R >RK< , K< H M >. 

[face p. ,,,.| 


kingdom ; and to these parts had been banished the 
ancestors of the Chiefs of Nangodi, Bongo, Kologu, 
and Passankwaire. 

Once established at those places they sought to form 
kingdoms of their own similar to that in the land 
whence they had been dismissed, but remembered 
always the blood connection with the parent family of 
the Na. In these efforts the two former were but 
partly successful, for the wild tribes, who had hitherto 
merely recognised the proprietary rights of a tindana 
when the season promised to be poor and the fear of 
famine prompted the need to propitiate the earth, 
were too independent to serve one who was a stranger. 
Kologu, however, did succeed in establishing Chiefs 
more or less recognised by the people in the neighbour- 
hood of the Tong Hills, a fact which would seem to be 
due to the origin of the people themselves, which, 
as recorded above, is Mamprussi and Dagomba. 
Passankwaire was apparently successful in a part of 
the Builsa country. His story is as follows, and is 

A certain son of a Na of Mamprussi, one Wurume, 
committed adultery with one of his father's wives. He 
was banished and came with a few followers to a place 
called Kassidema in Builsa country. There is no such 
place to-day, but the site of the former compounds is 
pointed out. He then set himself up to rule the people, 
who, by the way, are all and sundry called Grunshi by 
Mamprussi and Moshi, no matter whether they be 
Builsa or Nabdam. To carry out his intentions he 
appointed his sons to rule over Sandema, Siniessi, 
Kadima, and Wiaga. He himself grew tired of Kas- 
sidema, and after moving to Kunkwa, where he left a 
son to rule, re-crossed the Volta and settled in 
Passankwaire. This was many generations ago, and in 
course of time the descendants of the sons left in 
Builsa country neglected their allegiance and forgot 
their Mamprussi connection, but the chiefship 


descended in the family and continued to survive, pro- 
tected by the " medicine " of the originally appointed 

In the country which these exiled Chiefs dared not 
venture there were no Chiefs. But heads of families 
had heard of the proximity of the Mamprussi nenamse 
(pi. of naba), and for various reasons, such as protection, 
ambition, pride, etc., went to pay their respects, 
presenting cows or other gifts. The naba, gratified at 
this recognition, rewarded his visitor with a present of 
" medicine," conferring thereby some of the magic 
which had enabled him to attain so lofty a position. 
This " medicine " is usuaHy some earth from the 
naba's compound and from the nabobs sacred place, 
and its presentation and acceptance conferred power 
over the recipient and delegated power from the donor. 
It was not always practicable to name the visitor a naba 
over a portion of the land, and extraordinary titles 
were conferred, such as Asongonaba (chief of the asongo 
dancers), chief of strangers, etc. 

Now the practice of nearly every family in this 
country is for the headman to hold a horn containing 
earth from the sacred place of his ancestors, no matter 
how far away that is. Thus the story of the family's 
original home is preserved with great truth. This 
horn is named kwarra (Kassena), bare (Builsa), 
bari (Nankanni). To it sacrifices are made, and 
thus the Earth-god of the homeland is appeased. The 
acceptance of a similar kwarra from a Mamprussi 
therefore was practically a religious fiction whereby the 
recipient acknowledged the ancestorship of the Mam- 
prussi and the power of that Mamprussi's particular 
Earth-god. To all intents and purposes the newly- 
created naba was the son of the man who had given 
him his title and the horn. 

The third manner in which the chiefship came to 
these people has nothing to do with Mamprussi or 
Moshi influence. It is peculiar in these parts to the 


Kassena people, and the story of its origin explains 

When Navarro first came to be peopled by its 
present inhabitants (I am referring to that part in 
which the Chief's family resides, which is called 
Noghsenia), the country was inhabited by people who 
lived in the ground. To them came three Nankanni 
men from Zekko and asked for land. These three 
were brothers, and after a time a dispute arose as to who 
should be their leader. Now two of them were strong 
men, and if a fight were to ensue between these the new 
community would suffer. The two therefore met and 
agreed that, since they were equal in strength and 
much stronger than their third brother, it would be 
better to make him their leader, so that he could neither 
trouble them nor rob them. The arrangement was 
adopted, and thus the man with least influence in the 
family is still usually chosen as their Chief (piaw). This, 
however, was not altogether an evil decision, because 
the two brothers agreed to help their weaker relative 
in the making of his farm or the building of his house 
a practice universally observed here to-day. 

The distinction, therefore, is an important one 
between a tindana and a nab a. The former cares for 
the religious observance of the people, the latter was 
in process of developing into a political head, when the 
advent of the white man interfered with and acceler- 
ated the slow process of evolution. 



IN matters of religion, however, the Earth-gods 
are not alone. Everyone believes in a Supreme 
Being, the creator of life and the moulder of 
destiny. He is Wuni (Nankanni), We (Kassena), 
Weni (Builsa). His power being beyond limitation, 
he stands alone, and is usually not to be approached by 
mere mortals. No one seems to have imagined an 
appearance for him, but he apparently lives in the sky 
or sometimes is the sky itself or the sun. With no 
priests to inculcate doctrine there is, of course, much 
individuality of thought. It is interesting to compare 
a belief that Wuni is the sky with a similar belief as 
regards Nyame in Ashanti. It is not universal in 
either country, but it is typical of a common process 
of reasoning. As a matter of fact, the people here have 
many traditions concerning Ashanti. At Navarro one 
section traces its origin to a wounded Ashanti who was 
left behind at Zekko when an invading Ashanti army 
withdrew to their own country. His wound was in 
the thigh and this left him with a permanent limp. To 
this day Ashantis are called Kamboin-gwanna, *>., 
limping men. Again, in Builsa country, there is a 
story of how an Ashanti rearguard was massacred to a 

This confusion of God and sky goes further in its 
similarity. The Kassena relate that in the beginning 
the sky was close to the ground. An old woman was 
about to cook, but the sky was in the way, so, in her 


temper, she cut off a piece and made it into soup. 
The sky, angered, went away to its present place. How 
like this is the Ashanti story of a woman who was 
pounding yams, and the sky got in the way so that her 
wooden pestle hit it continually, till it grew so angry 
that it withdrew out of her reach. 

Although many call the sun We, Wuni, Weni, they 
think as a rule little about him. He returns over the 
same road at night as he traversed during the day ; 
and thus it comes about that an eclipse takes place, for 
the moon having lost her road gets in the way of the 
sun, who begins to eat her. People come out of their 
compounds and " beg " the sun to let her go. The 
begging is done by slowly clapping their hands. 
Another explanation is that a cat is eating the moon. 
But why cat, I could not discover. At new moon 
people sometimes take ash and, putting it into their 
palm, blow it towards the crescent, saying : " I saw 
you before you saw me." Otherwise they say that the 
increase of the moon would bring about itheir own 
decrease in strength. ! \ 

Confused with We or Wuni is the worship of, or 
rather reverence for, stones. To these people the 
unknown has its origin above. Stone implements, 
which are everywhere very common, are explained as 
coming from God, or the sky, or rain. The same 
explanation is given for any curiously or attractively 
shaped stone, and these very many of the natives pick 
up on the chance of their bringing good fortune or 
merely because they are pleasing. Should good luck 
follow soon after, the finder may, in his consultation 
with the sorcerers, which I shall explain later, learn 
that the curiously shaped stone brought it him ; and 
in course of time the spirit of the stone may acquire 
great renown. Moreover, nowhere have I seen a blood 
sacrifice on the ground itself always the victim is 
slain on stone. The sky itself or maybe the Creator 
has a private worship paid to it. All are at liberty 


to offer to the sky, and in most, but by no means all, 
houses, one will see on the roof of one of the huts a 
small pyramid of sun-baked mud on the summit of 
which is a small stone usually a cast-away hand- 
grinder. This is the sacrificial place for We. 

An eclipse of the sun is watched in silence. In 
October, 1919, an annular eclipse took place late in the 
afternoon, and as soon as the people noticed it most 
left their work and quietly went into their huts. 
They were afraid ; but I saw no sacrifices, and after- 
wards they laughed at their fears. 

I suppose, however, that in religious belief 
practically every compound is a law to itself, and the 
explanations of things depend on the individual 
imaginings of the owner. Thus the following is 
another story of the sky. A man and a woman had 
but one child. One day a python ate the babe. In 
their sorrow they called for help and four men came to 
assist. One knew how to track the snake, one knew 
how to slay it, the third was skilled in skinning, and 
the fourth was able to restore the dead to life. Thus 
the babe was returned to its parents and then the four 
men began to dispute as to who should have the skin. 
They were about to fall on each other, when the father 
of the child proposed to decide the matter by chance. 
He was to throw it into the air and the one on whom 
it fell should possess the same. They agreed, and the 
skin was thrown up into the air, but it has never come 
down. In this way the sky was made, and the serpent's 
head became the sun, its tail the moon, and its spots 
the stars. 

The principal form of worship, as related above, is 
that of the Earth-gods. A man cannot propitiate 
Wuni' a belief in fatalism alone would lead to such 
reasoning but one can appease the gods of the earth. 
These are many, and all have different names. They 
are invisible and abide in natural phenomena, such as 
clumps of trees, rocks of remarkable size or appearance, 



[face p. 24.] 




ponds, etc. Generally, however, the clumps of trees 
are the holy places. These clumps are very numerous, 
sometimes reminding one of such as Chanctonbury 
Ring, in Sussex, sometimes of coppices at home. But 
always I am told the actual place of sacrifice is a stone. 
The tindana, whose office is hereditary, performs the 
ceremony, which varies in size. Every year, however, 
there is a general sacrifice, cows or sheep being slain 
which are the proceeds of the sale of the baskets and 
calabashes of grain paid by the people to the tindana as 
rents for their farms. It would seem that there is no 
rule fixed as to the amount of rent to be paid. These 
holy places are called tingani^Nankanni), tingwan(Kas- 
sena), tangbai (Builsa). It does not necessarily follow 
that a tingani was there in the beginning. For instance, 
in Sandema there is a clump of trees of quite recent 
growth. It is said that the trees sprang up suddenly 
round a man's compound. One can see the midden 
to-day. He could do nothing to stop their growth, and 
on enquiring from a sorcerer was informed that the 
trees were a holy place. 

At Kanjaga there are two tingani of most noticeable 
appearance but of not great local importance. One 
is a small cluster of fan palms surrounding a tall one, 
all of them growing out of a white ants' nest. The 
other is a group of those short, long-leaved raphia 
palms found in the marshes in the Ashanti forest. It 
is situated in a small dale long denuded of other trees 
and presents a most striking view. Nowhere else 
in these districts, not even along the wooded bank of 
the Volta, have I seen this palm. 

The tindana has many other duties besides allocat- 
ing land. He selects and marks out the sites of new 
compounds ; arranges for the annual sacrifices ; intro- 
duces new Chiefs to the Earth-god ; is the chief peace- 
maker when wars break out ; orders the sacrifices when 
blood is on the ground or vile offences such as incest 
(i.e., adultery with a female of too close a consanguinity 


or marriage connection) pollute the soil ; appoints the 
day when the new crops may be eaten generally by the 
community at large, since one is always free to cut an 
ear or two of grain to stave ofl starvation ; in short, 
regulates all matters touching his deity. 

To neglect a tingani is certain to bring the dis- 
pleasure of the Earth-god. The latter's requirements 
are as usual made known through the sorcerers' stones, 
and are, of course, obeyed. However, at Saa, which is 
in Tyana, the tindana had learned that his Earth-god 
wished for a market to be re-established there. He did 
not hasten about the matter, and was duly warned to 
be more expeditious in future by having his son badly 
mauled by a leopard. So he told me. 

The more one seeks into the inner life of these 
people, the more one wonders how life is endurable. 
There is first Wuni. He has pre-ordained everything, 
and is presumably in this guise of Mohammedan 
origin, but as the sky, he can be begged to desist or 
assist. The Earth-gods are most important ; unless 
one appeased them one's stomach would suffer, since 
famine assuredly follows their neglect. If an arrow is 
shot in anger, if a man is slain, if anything untoward 
occurs, the particular Earth-god on whose domain the 
event took place must be appeased. 

But everything else, either necessary to life, 
dangerous to life, unusual or unexpected, must also be 
appeased. Rain, therefore, is of great importance. 
Rain is saa (Nan.), dua (Kass.). This word, however, 
means more than rain : it combines rain, thunder, 
wind, and lightning. Thus one says in Kassena, 
" dua ti" it rains ; " dua kera" it thunders ; " dua 
pepela" it is lightning. Rain is in possession of a man 
just as is the earth. He is duatu, saa-dana, ngwaro nyona 
in Kassena, Nankanni, and Builsa. I do not envy him 
his lot. A duatu at Navarro in 1918 had quite a bad 
time of it when the rain failed. First many presents 
were brought to him for sacrifice, but rain came not, 


The people considered he was responsible, and tied 
him up until it would fall a Kassena ties a man up 
in no gentle manner. Still rain came not. They 
then ceased to give him food. At last rain came. He 
made no complaint, apparently considering the people 
were perfectly justified. I do not know where the 
sacrifices to the rain are made, but I understand the 
duatu calls from his compound to it. Late in 1918, at 
Zuaragu, when the guinea-corn was ready for harvest 
and rain was not wanted, a most menacing rainstorm 
approached. Everyone turned out on the top of 
their compounds they are flat-roofed and cried to 
the rain not to come. It was a great shout and the 
note of prayer was easily to be detected. The rain 
listened and came not. Rain in its form of lightning 
very frequently burns a hut or slays a man. No one 
in his senses would put the fire out or help the victim* 
Often if it is too abundant the rain-owner mounts his 
roof and threatens the rain with a knife or other 

Now everywhere are found stone axes and hoes. 
The Nankanni call them saa-kugli, which means rain- 
stones, the Kassena call them kyiridora, i.e., the axes 
of the spirits. Everyone believes in these spirits. To 
distinguish them from beneficial spirits, or, rather, 
spirits who might sometimes be contented to allow 
benefits to come to men, such as the earth-spirits, rain- 
spirits, etc., I will call these spirits devils. They are 
kyikyiri (Kassena), kukru (Builsa), and chicbirigu 
(Nankanni). Sometimes they are visible to men, and 
in appearance resemble the mmotia of the Ashanti, 
ill-shapen dwarfs. 'Frequently they are born of 
women. In fact, all deformed children are not 
human; they are devils, and their influence is evil. 
They must be killed. These devils' usual dwelling- 
place is in the bush and they annoy travellers by night 
by " throwing stones at them." Some men assert 
that often a woman who gathers herself a new dress, 


*.., leaves, from a bush which is inhabited by a devil 
seizes the devil together with the leaves, and in this 
way he has intercourse with her, with the result that a 
devil-child is born, i.e., a deformed baby. Apparently 
the women do not believe this they say that some 
men are devils themselves. 

As to whether one's child is a devil or a human 
being only the sorcerer can say. I will explain later 
how the information is imparted. Almost invariably 
a deformed child is a devil ; twins sometimes are, and 
now and then a quite healthy child is so proclaimed. 
Once the father is certain that his wife has brought 
forth a devil, he proceeds to the devil-killer, who 
returns with him to the house where the child is. 
There he receives a red-and-black hen and a goat, and 
gives in return the devil-killing medicine to the child 
and ties round its neck a ram's horn filled with a 
powder of earth, shea-butter and ashes. The child 
soon after dies and the killer is called back to bury the 
corpse. This he places in a large water-pot, and the 
father carries it into the bush, where, finding an ant- 
heap, he buries the pot and its contents. Sometimes 
the child does not die ; and if after more consultations 
with the sorcerer the parent remains convinced it is a 
devil, he calls in the killer, who slays the infant with the 
horn. It is difficult, of course, to learn more exact 
details. I came across only one case, but I saw three 
of these horns or (kwarra Kass.), dongo (Nan.). 
The horn was round the child's neck, and when I 
destroyed it I had it pulled to pieces. It was wrapped 
in the wing-feathers of guinea-fowls. These had been 
tied round it from time to time, and I gathered that 
each set of feathers represented one devil slain. In 
this case fifteen sets had been tied on. 

M. Tauxier notices this form of infanticide among 
a tribe whom he designates as Kassouna-Boura 
(Kassena Bur a). Bur a is the Kassena term for the 
Builsa and Dagomba bush people, but from his 


location of the tribe must be the same as those I refer 
to as Kassena. He says : 

" Sometimes the Kassouna-Boura women give 
birth to evil spirits infants who, instead of being the 
re-incarnation of an ancestor, parent, quiet and 
respectable spirit, are the incarnation of a wandering, 
abandoned, evil and vindictive spirit. This child can 
be known by the fact that it weeps all the time, that it 
refuses to feed from its mother, that it is never at rest, 
that it is born with teeth, that it climbs on the roofs of 
the huts, over difficult places, etc. When these things 
happen, the voro (sorcerer) is asked what is the matter. 
He gives the usual consultation with his wand and 
stones, or stick only, and if the child is recognised as an 
evil spirit by the replies of the wand, it is given to a 
man of the village, whose trade it is and who is paid 
a hoe and two fowls. He takes the child away and 
kills it on a neighbouring hill. If this were not done, 
the father or mother would be killed by it later. This 
is done to-day, although evil spirits do not often 

In all matters the sorcerer is visited and the 
consultation is as follows. The sorcerer never speaks 
while being consulted, and although the subconscious 
mind of the consultant enables the latter to obtain an 
answer agreeable to his inmost belief, yet he himself 
remains unconscious of having done anything, and 
would probably be much relieved if the result of his 
consultation was to declare the child a human being. 
The murder of children is prevalent everywhere here, 
but the details differ somewhat, and it is a custom 
rapidly dying out. 

These sorcerers play a most important role in the 
life of the country. Practically nothing is done 
without consulting them first. They also explain the 
reason for misfortunes. In short, the whole structure 
of society is in their hands ; but for all that, they are 
not active agents ; their work is but passive. 


To become a sorcerer a long training is required. A 
parent decides that his son should become one after 
consultation with the sorcerer ; a man reaches the 
same decision as regards himself after similar enquiry. 
The procedure in these consultations is almost in- 
variably the same. A present is given the sorcerer. 
No matter how small, he must do his duty and grant 
an audience. 

He is distinguished by the possession of a bag. 
This is generally a goat-skin, pulled off the animal 
complete save for the head and legs below the knee- 
joints. Inside the bag are all kinds of apparent 
rubbish, some old bones, dirty little rags containing 
" medicine," weird-shaped stones, bits of iron, broken 
pottery, feathers, bits of skin, horns a regular rag- 
and-bone merchant's collection. But the principal 
items are two or more smoothly-rounded stones little 
larger than a golf ball, and a stick. The sorcerer in 
Kassena is voro, Builsa bana, Nankanni bakologodana. 
The last is literally " owner of the bag. " The stones are 
voro kande, bakologo kugri, and so on. 

The sorcerer squats on a calabash, not on the 
ground, and in his right hand waves and shakes a 
bottle-shaped gourd with seeds inside, keeping up a 
continuous rattling until the consultation is over. 
The Talansi sorcerers wear round their necks the 
complete skin of a small black cat. 

Naturally there is but little opportunity for a white 
man to watch a consultation, but I was assured that 
all were similar to one on which I chanced. After the 
present had been received the sorcerer squatted in 
front of his client, who was likewise squatting, and 
emptied the contents of his bag between them. He then 
began an incantation, calling on the spirits (kyikyiri} 
to come, whilst his client whispered to the stones, 
etc., from the bag what answer each would represent. 
So far the client had remained silent. In fact, through- 
out the performance he said nothing except to repeat 


the request for the spirits to attend. After a time the 
sorcerer became a little excited as if slightly possessed, 
somewhat like the fetishmen of Ashanti when the 
spirit enters them, only to a lesser extent. The client 
then took hold of the other end of the magic stick, 
which the sorcerer had been waving about. The 
stones were on the ground between the two men. The 
sorcerer made passes, to all seeming quite meaningless, 
and eventually the stick held at either end by both 
men began to hover over the magic stones till at last 
one was touched by the end held by the enquirer, maybe 
once, maybe many times. And the answer to the 
enquiry is thus conveyed to the supplicant, who 
remembers which stone is negative, which affirmative, 
or whatever answers may be reasonably expected and 
which he has told each stone to represent. The spirits 
are then asked to return to their abiding-places and the 
consultation is over. Be it well marked that in no way 
has the sorcerer learned of the nature of the questions 
asked. The supplicant, of course, is persuaded of the 
wondrous nature of the oracle's reply. I do not know 
what the sorcerer thinks of the proceedings. 

This form of consultation, which would seem to 
arise from the desire to get outside help in coming to a 
decision, is to be found throughout the Northern 
Territories away from the Twi speakers. 

It is interesting to record that the stones used are 
hard, smooth ones found everywhere in the fields. 
They are said to fall from heaven, but are most 
probably disused hand-grinders. The people collect 
them, and one sees them at every compound, sometimes 
in quite large heaps outside the door on the ancestral 
graves, or, rather, the little mud pyramids which have 
been set up to make sacrificial places for the departed. 

In matters religious as in matters of everyday life 
the sorcerer is equally important. The tindana would 
not make the annual sacrifice unless the stones said the 
day was propitious any more than a man would go 


hunting if they told him the day would end in calamity. 
The poverty common to all sorcerers is a sufficient proof 
of the absence in them of humbug, and, if further proof 
were needed, there is the continual acceptance by them 
of recruits and apprentices, so that their number to-day 
is continually increasing. 

In addition to the devils there are many other 
spirits. Probably everything has a spirit dwelling 
therein. Trees, especially the larger ones, are fre- 
quently their abode. A constable, a native of the 
Districts, on two occasions asked permission to make a 
tree in the station his friend. Permission granted, one 
saw later a piece of cloth attached to the bark. Some- 
times fowls are offered. Their blood is first placed on 
a stone at the tree's foot and on the bark, and feathers 
are plastered on both places. A tree might get 
angry and fall on one ; it is better to propitiate it, 
especially if it is near one's house. Again, it might be a 
benevolent spirit and would help one in some enter- 
prise. The shea-butter tree is the commonest of 
trees. It is everywhere in the farms and bush, and 
when the harvest of guinea-corn is gathered a straw 
or more is tied to the tree. The reason for this was 
given me by several men in different places. They 
said the earth was pleased and had allowed the tree to 
flourish, so they in turn had given a present to the tree 
so that it would not take all the goodness from the 
ground and so ruin the chances of the crop. 

The worship of trees is general throughout the 
tribes of the Niger belt apparently, and in reference to 
the Nunuma, a closely connected tribe of the Kassena, 
M. Tauxier says in reference to sacrifices made before 
sowing the crops : 

" The day following a copious rainfall the head of 
the compound takes a fowl to his field. If there stands 
therein a tamarind, a shea-butter or a locust-bean tree 
he lets the blood of the fowl drop on the tree. If 
there is none, he lets if fall on the ground. The 


sacrifice is offered to the earth and the bush in order 
to procure a good harvest. The sky or God is also 

" We know that to the mind of the native the tree 
is firstly a child of the earth, since the latter makes it 
grow on its breast ; secondly a representative of the 
bush, since the bush is made of grasses, plants, and 
trees. Therefore to offer a sacrifice to a tree is to offer 
one at the same time to the earth and to the bush, 
its two creative divinities. That is why when there is 
a tree in the field the fowl's blood is poured out for it." 

I can find no worship of the bush as such among the 
tribes in British territory ; but there are certainly 
Earth-gods who inhabit the bush, and these are 
propitiated or invoked, as the case may be, whenever 
occasion may arise. For instance, when a new settle- 
ment is formed the newly-created tindana will not 
create a new Earth-god, he will merely discover and 
worship the local deity. As pointed out before, his 
discovery will be facilitated by the curious physical 
features in the neighbourhood of his new compound, 
and confirmed by the result of the usual consultation 
with the sorcerers. It is noteworthy, too, that the 
gawrana (Nan.), goatu (Kass.) lit., owner of the 
bush is appointed by the tindana, and loses those 
portions of the bush which may be settled on later, 
when they will become either subject to the old tingani 
or to a new one discovered by the founder of the new 
settlement. This gawrana makes sacrifice to the gods 
of the earth that dwell in the bush, particularly at the 
time of communal hunting. 

The majority of men recognise easily a likely place 
for an Earth-god to choose as his abode. I remarked 
this especially on the road south when talking to some 
Nankanni carriers of mine. We were about half-way 
between Prang and Attabubu, where the new motor 
road was being cut through a very thick piece of bush 
one of those out-croppings, as it were, of the great 



forest. Their sudden silence struck me, and they 
explained they were afraid of the tingani through which 
we were passing. 

An aged tree stood outside the Chief of Navarro's 
compound. Some years ago it fell down, but nothing 
was done about it. This year, however, there was 
great scarcity of rain and the early crop of millet was in 
danger. The Chief knew not what could be the cause. 
After many consultations with the sorcerers he learned 
that the tree was a great Chief of trees, that it required 
the funeral ceremony of lare^ which I will describe later. 
Then was performed with much feasting this mark of 
esteem to the departed, and the venerable tree was 
appeased. This was an unusual thing and, so far as I 
could learn, unique. 

Spirits of rivers and water-holes are greatly 
respected. They are most powerful spirits, too. They 
can slay men and they can bring much good fortune. 
To them are brought many sacrifices of fowls and 
goats, etc. It is said that these spirits live below the 
river-bed. Their dwelling-places are the same as that 
of men. People who have been almost drowned say 
they have seen such places, that before seeing them the 
spirits turned their faces to the back of the head. It 
is evident that if one is drowned the spirit is angry. 
In fact, the man is not drowned at all ; he is taken by 
the river. 

I knew a small boy who resembled his grandfather. 
Later I have written how such children are supposed 
to be the re-incarnation of the dead they resemble. 
Being honoured as his grandfather, he was looked on as 
a man and carried on the profession of sorcerer. This 
work he took up at the instigation of the spirit of a 
river which he had visited. His story was that near 
Po he was overtaken by night, being left behind by his 
family when travelling to Po. He went to sleep by a 
stream, and during the night visited the stream's home 
and was entertained there. Proof positive of the 


reality of the stream's spiritual existence ! He told 
about it and drew a picture of how everything in the 
spiritual world fesembled the things on earth. This 
dream he believed in implicitly. 

These spirits will on occasion help one. Often a 
man wanting a wife asks for their help. The resulting 
wife is looked on by him as partly owned by the spirit, 
and he consults it and gives it presents at such im- 
portant times as that of pregnancy, child-birth, etc. 

On crossing the more important rivers many 
people throw one or two cowries into it, or a little flour 
or grain, and tell the river what they intend doing, and 
so procure its assistance or persuade it not to intervene 
unfavourably. On the return journey, no matter if 
fortune was good or bad, similar small presents are 
made and the river informed of the result. And I 
have noticed that very many natives when swimming 
rivers in flood carry a small lump of earth from one 
bank to the other, holding it above the water. The 
reason given was that thus the river would not harm 
them ; but the real reason was not disclosed. 

Mention has been made of sacred stones which 
might be the abode of earth-spirits. The most 
remarkable of these is a bare, almost perpendicular 
rock-face at Tiana, visible for a great distance. Of 
lesser stones, the neolithic implements and the old 
grind-stones have a semi-religious status, and to these 
must be added the stones used instead of anvils by the 
blacksmiths. These are called nari (Kassena), nia 
(Builsa), and are generally fallen from heaven. Indeed, 
some are, I believe, meteorites, and such are of great 
value, costing sometimes as much as three cows. The 
ordinary nari, however, is found in river-beds, is 
extremely hard, and costs at its cheapest three thousand 
cowries, approximately three shillings. Sacrifices are 
made to them, since their spirit is a beneficent one to 
the blacksmith, for without their aid he could not carry 
on his labours. Coming from heaven, their weight 


forces them through the ground, so usually one has to 
place a stick between them and the soil when hammer- 
ing on them, lest one should send them right through 
the earth. Only blacksmiths may handle them, for 
they kill other people and bring evil fortune to anyone 
so foolhardy as to step over them ; and they confer a 
legal right on their owner to possess any article placed 
on them. 

This deference to a stone necessary to one's trade 
is common to most tools of a like importance. The 
wandering troubadour sacrifices to his violin or pipe ; 
the iron-maker to his furnace ; the hunter to his bow 
or his gun. 

It cannot but be remarked that animals regarded 
as sacred, especially crocodiles, are generally those that 
dwell among the haunts of men. Few of the larger 
watering-places are without one or more of these, and 
they are invariably sacred. At Wiassi there is a large 
pool of water. It is full of crocodiles, which may not 
be harmed. The pool is used for swimming in as well 
as for drinking water, and the crocodiles do not even 
trouble to get out of one's way. Presumably this is on 
the principle of nemo me impune lacessit. But in the 
river near by crocodiles may be, and are, regularly killed, 
except, of course, by those of the crocodile totem. 

A hippopotamus, however, inhabiting a similar 
pool at Fambissi, was a public nuisance, albeit sacred. 
It enjoyed spoiling the adjacent farms. I was begged 
to kill it ; I went to try, and missed it twice. It then 
refused to show itself for a long while. A couple of 
the spectators then said they would beg the spirit to 
come up. They did so and offered up a regular 
prayer to it to show itself. It did, and I missed it 
again. The hippopotamus sank once more and, I heard 
afterwards, moved away from the place. 

The cult of the crocodile is commonly met with 
throughout the Northern Territories. It is not, 
however, universal. It would seem, though it is 


dangerous to generalise, that where the local water 
supply or fishing-pool is infested with these brutes, 
there an understanding has been reached between 
man and animal to leave each other in peace. 

On this point M. Tauxier gives several interesting 
examples among the Nunuma. At Sapia he mentions 
that the belief is current that a man's soul is not only 
in him, but also in a crocodile, and that whatever evil 
came to the latter comes to him, and vice versa. At 
Leo he found, too, the same beliefs. 

Animals being alive do not, so far as I could learn, 
require propitiation. On several occasions men have 
talked to me of their sacred cows, but in what the 
sacredness consists I could not discover. A belief, 
however, in metamorphosis seems universal. Especially 
can old women change themselves into hyaenas, 
for how otherwise could wild animals come so 
near to the habitations of men and so fearlessly scrape 
in the rubbish heaps ? At lassi exists a family which 
can change themselves into elephants, and if a man 
injures them they will, in their elephant guise, trample 
down his farm. Several have seen this not the change 
itself, but the elephants coming from near the com- 
pound and proceeding with their work of devastation. 
Untold wealth would not persuade them to show me 
the change. Animals, of course, can talk to each 
other, and certainly understand human speech. No one 
says he will kill his dog to-morrow if the dog is within 
hearing, lest it should run away. On the occasion of 
Peace celebration the Government presented the 
people with a number of sheep, and by way of amusing 
their herd I told the sheep they had only one day to 
live. The shepherd was quite indignant, as he was 
responsible for their safe keeping, and told me the 
sheep would try to escape. One did. The shepherd 
explained it was really my fault. I wonder if he found 
it to his taste. . . . Again, four lions were causing much 
loss among the cattle in a part of Builsa country. I 


was asked to kill them. I did my best, but never 
came across them. But, as so frequently happens, no 
sooner did I leave the country than the lions reappeared 
there. Obviously they had either heard or been told 
of my intention. 



THE subject of animals leads one to the 
question of totems. In its usually accepted 
meaning the term is not quite accurate if 
applied to the customs of these people. Everyone has 
some animal which is a species of alter ego not to be 
slain or eaten, an animal which is recognised as one's 
friend, one's brother. Most noteworthy of these 
animals is the crocodile, which is called by the Paga 
people their soul. The life of a man or woman is 
identical with that of his crocodile, alter ego. When he 
is born the crocodile is born ; they are ill at the same 
time ; they die at the same time. It is said that when 
a man is at the point of death one can hear at night 
the groaning of his crocodile. These crocodiles 
congregate chiefly in one large pool and are very 
numerous. Women and children walk among them 
without fear to get the water, and the crocodiles are 
at liberty to take any goat or sheep rash enough to 
go within reach of their maws. 

Other totems are the python, iguana, squirrel, 
civet, mole-cricket, monkey, green-snake, mouse, part- 
ridge, and dog. Some trees are also totems, notably 
the kapok. It would seem that women have no such 
totems. They are generally forbidden to eat fowls, 
dogs, or monkeys. The only reason for this that I 
could find out was from an old man, who said that if a 
woman was allowed to eat fowls there would be none 
left, since they are so easy to catch an explanation 


which I did not take to be serious. Rather do I think 
it is related to religion. Fowls seem especially 
reserved for sacrifice, and women take no part in either 
sacrifices or other religious ceremonies. 

M. Tauxier received an answer similar to the one 
I had. His informant said that the fowl, a sociable 
and civilised beast, was good for men, whilst the 
guinea-fowl, an untamed beast, was good for women, 
who are wild and flighty beings. 

A man usually has two totems. One he inherits 
from his father and the other he obtains at the 
ceremony of seem, a form of baptism which I shall 
explain later. Occasionally an animal is taken as a 
totem at the instigation of a sorcerer, who may detect 
in it the malign influence which has caused the mis- 
fortunes that prompted the consultation. For in- 
stance, at Pagabru a man slew two leopards. This 
was an event of no small order. Shortly after several 
people in his compound died. The sorcerer was 
visited, and as a result the man learned that the leopard 
was a totem or, rather, taboo for him. He therefore 
modelled two clay leopards (he said they were leopards ; 
I thought they were meant for elephants) outside the 
gate of his compound and sacrificed to them. Be it 
noted, again, how the man himself associating the two 
events the slaying of the leopards and the death of his 
relatives on consulting the sorcerer obtained a reply 
quite in accordance with his own natural conclusions. 
In the opposite way, a man whose friends attribute their 
good fortune to the kindness of their totems will be 
persuaded to adopt those particular animals. To do so 
one merely sacrifices a goat or fowl and begs for their 

Many of the people believe their dead relatives, 
particularly female ones, become animals. For this 
reason the chameleon is an object of great fear. It 
presages death and all manner of evil as a rule. To kill 
a totem is a dreadful thing. Death, sickness, mis- 


fortune to the household are sure to follow such a 
deed. Hence come blindness, baldness, shortness of 
stature ; hence, too, scarcity of rain, for in these parts 
frequently an abundance falls all round and quite a small 
area is left dry and unwatered. This year the Chief's 
section of the Mayoro community had no rain at all 
for their first crop of millet, whilst everyone else had 
plenty and harvested an abundance of grain. The 
sorcerer will, through his stones, make known the cause, 
and it depends on what the consultant's conscience 
says as to whether a slain or injured totem be the cause. 
In the Mayoro case it was a slain totem that had caused 
the drought. 

The origin of these totems is usually traced to 
some event in the past in which the animal chosen has 
aided ; the family. A small boy who joined my house- 
hold a Nankanni had as his main totem the python. 
It appears that his father was out in the bush with 
some friends, when they angered a python, which slew 
them but left him. This was an evident sign of 
partiality for him on the part of the snake, who thus 
became the boy's father's totem. 

The Chief of Navarro's totem is a crocodile. The 
family received this in the following manner. Long 
ago the Kamboin-zono, coming from the south, had 
chased the Nankanni in a northern direction. One of 
the invaders was left at Zekko with his wife, because of 
an injury to his leg. No remedy could heal him. One 
day, when he was near to dying, a squirrel jumped down 
from a branch of a tree on to the wound. The 
Kamboin-zono in his agony cried out, but the pain was 
relieved almost immediately. He felt sure that he 
could recover, and sent his wife to go and bring him 
some water. She took her pot and went in search of it. 
Finding none, and meeting a crocodile, she ran back 
to him and told what she had seen. He told her to go 
back quickly and follow the crocodile, for it would 
show her where a water-hole would be found. She 


went back and, following the crocodile, found a large 
pond. She filled her water-pot and returned to her 
husband, who, recovering, built his compound at the 
place and begot many children. After many genera- 
tions these fought together, and some were driven from 
Zekko. These men came and settled in Navarro, retain- 
ing the memory of the friendly aid of the crocodile. 

At Mayoro I learned how one day a blacksmith went 
to the bush to kill bush-cows ; meeting one, he shot 
an arrow and wounded it. The bush-cow charged. 
The blacksmith ran. Seeing an ant-eater's earth he 
crept in, just escaping the bush-cow. It remained 
there waiting for him to come out. But, being 
seriously wounded, it died, and fell on top of the hole. 
The blacksmith could not push the corpse away and 
remained imprisoned. A mole-cricket was there also, 
and began to bore an exit. Through this small orifice 
a ray of light came to the unfortunate hunter, who 
enlarged it with his knife and succeeded in extricating 
himself. Thus the mole-cricket became the totem of 
the blacksmiths. 

On one occasion in Builsa country I shot a monkey 
in mistake for a leopard. With me were two Builsa 
hunters who were under the same impression. The 
animal died in some tall grass, and although both 
laughed at the mistake, they were not inclined to 
approach the corpse. When they did so I noticed one 
spat towards it and one threw a pinch of earth at it. 
On bringing it back to the camp another Builsa 
present did the same. I was told it was their brother, 
and they did not want him to be angry. He had been 
an evil brother, as he had done much damage in their 
farms, and now the white man had punished him. 
Weni had evidently changed him temporarily into the 
guise of a leopard so that I would shoot. 

But just as there are separate stories of the origin of 
each family, so there are of the totems, and one 
cannot write down all. 


There is a peculiar reverence paid by women to 
their calabashes. I could not learn much of this. I 
was told that every woman has a calabash and is rarely 
seen without carrying one. I know that in Nankanni 
country a woman takes her calabash to her husband's 
compound, and if the man wishes to divorce her returns 
the calabash to her father, who then repays the 
presents received for her. At Sirigu the tindana 
complained most bitterly to me that a certain man had 
buried his dead mother's calabash in the tingani without 
his consent. A sacrifice of two white fowls appeased 
the tindana, but I got no explanation as to the calabash. 

From what I could gather, the calabash contains 
some earth from the tingani of the girl's mother, or 
paternal .grandmother if the latter is alive, mixed with 
blood from sacrifices made to it from time to time by 
both the husband and the woman. Among the 
Builsa the calabash is often a small basket, decorated 
sometimes with cowries and made of dyed grasses ; 
among the Kassena where this custom is not universal 
a small pot takes the place of calabash or basket. 
Women's customs differ apparently from those of the 
male sex, and one cannot get them to talk so easily as 
the men. Calabashes seem, too, to be a religious 
symbol ; they are used when freshly prepared to measure 
the new vaults and graves for the dead. 

From the above it will be seen that these people 
believe in the existence of a soul or spirit in practically 
everything. Each man has his own opinions. There 
is no one with sufficient standing or influence to 
formulate a common doctrine. It is the same with 
their own souls. A man's soul lives with the body, 
but can detach itself, retaining the human form. Thus 
in dreams it can wander about and perform all sorts of 
deeds, which, after the lapse of time, come to be 
regarded by the dreamer as deeds really performed 
at times rather a complication in court cases. Again, 
if one meets a man at night and he does not reply to 


one's greeting, it is no man, it is a soul. The soul, 
however, is essential to the body, though the body is 
not to the soul. Thus it is that a tree, an animal, an 
evil man can capture the soul and so bring about the 
body's death. This is learnt through the sorcerer's 
stones, and sacrifices are made to appease the angry tree 
or animal or witch. A man is not apparently aware of 
capturing another's soul, but he is quite prepared to 
admit the possibility. During the influenza epidemic 
early in 1919 a woman at Bongo caught many souls in 
this manner. She admitted that it was quite correct, 
but she could not control the evil actions of her own soul 
in doing so. In her turn she consulted the sorcerers, 
and so learned to appease the evil spirits which had 
made her soul do wrong. From this belief comes the 
oft-told story that certain men had eaten others, for 
such is the expression used of a soul seizing another and 
thereby causing the death of a man. The soul of a 
man still living is called dyoro (Kassena), pi-isiga 
(Nankanni), ko (Builsa) ; dead, it is kyiru, and it will go 
for permanent residence to Salaga, where is the dwell- 
ing-place of souls (kyiru-dyega). This latter belief 
is dying out, since many nowadays make the journey to 
Salaga ; some, however, who have been there claim to 
have seen the souls of their ancestors and to have been 
entertained by them. Is not this still a trace of some 
Ashanti connection ? The entry to this abiding-place 
can only be procured after the funeral customs have 
been observed, and no distinction is made between the 
evil-doers and the righteous. 

En passant, the Paga people call their alter ego 
crocodile their dyoro, or soul. The explanation given 
is that the friendship and mutual assistance and co- 
existence warrant such an appellation. This is very, 
very similar to the Ashanti calling agyinamoa, the 
house-cat, by the name wokra, or soul. 

To these dead souls sacrifices are frequently made 
and prayers offered, asking for help in obtaining 


prosperity, wives, children, and deflecting evil, sickness, 
and death. The soul is represented by clay pyramids, 
generally outside the compounds. 

The worship of ancestors is by far the most im- 
portant cult for the individual, just as the worship of 
the Earth-gods is for the community. A religious man 
or an over-superstitious one, according to how one 
chooses to regard the matter- will do nothing without 
a sacrifice of some sort, generally a fowl, to his ancestors. 
In every compound is the mound representative of the 
founder's grave, and outside are the small pyramids 
representative of other deceased members of the 
household. Each of these is capped with a stone, and 
thereon are placed blood and feathers from the 
sacrifices. And when a family migrates, earth from 
them is taken to the new abode, and the sacrifices 

To resume, then, the religion of these people 
consists in the belief in many gods of the earth, who are 
sometimes beneficent, sometimes maleficent. Usually 
they are kind, but if neglected their wrath soon brings 
their subjects to obedience. After the Earth-gods are 
the great gods which control rain, thunder, lightning, 
and wind gods whose waywardness and unreliability 
would seem to have discouraged a cult of the extent 
of that of the earth, but whose importance is as great. 
There follow innumerable spirits, whose character 
and whose requirements are for the individual to learn 
spirits of rivers, trees, animals, stones, etc., and who 
affect the community only so much as they are of use 
to it, as, for example, the communal watering-place ; 
evil spirits to be slain or appeased or averted by 
charms, and whose abiding-place is unknown and, like 
them, fugitive ; and, lastly, the spirits of the ancestors 
spirits which, by their very nature, are more for the 
individual than for the country at large. Classified 
thus, one cannot but remark the vicious circle of the 
religion. The dead return to the earth, impregnate 


the earth, as it were, with their essence, and so earth 
and the dead become inextricably mixed. The native 
would seem to recognise this nearly always when 
drinking, a little of the liquid is first poured on the 
ground for the earth and for the dead. But this is 
theorising, and is as yet a useless occupation. 

With the belief that spiritual agents are the cause of 
misfortune and sickness, it follows that medical 
treatment consists generally in charms. There are 
certain men considered most proficient in the curative 
art. These are the liri-tina (Kassena), tiindana 1 
(Nankanni), tiny am (Builsa), (owner of medicine). 
Their medicines are drawn from the bush, and are 
usually bitter-tasting grasses, herbs; and barks. For 
poultices the same herbs are used mixed with shea- 
butter and charcoal and ashes. Usually they are 
covered with cow-dung. It is said that the stronger 
the smell the more easily will the evil spirit causing the 
sickness be driven away. The cure complete, the 
doctor is called to his patient's house and regaled with 
food and pito (the local beer made from guinea-corn 
or millet). The doctor drinks first some^>//0, spits on 
the remains of the medicine, eats a little and spits 
that also thereon. The medicine is then thrown on 
the tampon (all languages), i.e., the midden in front of 
the compound. This ceremony performed, the late 
patient is free to eat of the various meats which had 
been forbidden him during his sickness. 

At Navarro there is a liri-tina who excels in setting 
broken limbs and dislocations. A dog of mine fell 
from the top of my house and, I thought, put out its 
thigh. I could not get it back, and, hearing of the 
man, asked him to do it for me. He took a stick and a 
stone, both of which he mysteriously searched for in 
the fields around, and placing the stone over the 
swelling, tapped it with the stick, calling on the kyiru 

1 Tiindana=tiin, medicine; dana, owner of. Tindana = teng, earth; dana, 
owner of. 


which had caused the trouble to let the dog go. He 
then threw the stick and stone away. It cured the 
dog ; but there is only my word for it that the leg was 
dislocated, and I know nothing of such things. 

Once my interpreter was hit by a poisoned arrow. 
The local liri-tina would not come. He was too 
afraid of a general fight, since the war-cry had been 
raised. He supplied the antidote, however, but I 
could not learn of what it was composed. The 
procedure was as follows. The wound was in the left 
leg just below the knee-cap, the poison stro- 
phanthus. The arrow had pierced in about three- 
quarters of an inch and took me several seconds to 
extract. The man was made to sit down. His neck 
was cut in three places, but not so as to draw blood, and 
the skin between the fingers was treated likewise. 
The wound was then beaten with the flat of a knife, and 
after a little blood had flowed the medicine a black 
sort of paste' was applied and a draught of some 
concoction given. My interpreter was then allowed 
to walk back to the camp, but he could not pass any 
locust-bean tree a difficult piece of navigation, as 
they were practically the only trees about' and the 
offending arrow had to be carried behind him. This 
was important, as it showed the arrow who was master. 
The man lived. 

In addition the point of the arrow was blunted or 
bent. This would seem a custom analogous to that 
of biting the thorn that has entered one's flesh a 
custom which seems common to everyone in the Gold 

On another occasion one of my constables was 
bitten badly by a crazy dog' driven crazy by hunger, 
and not one suffering from rabies. The remedy was 
simple. The fangs were drawn, burnt, pounded up 
and drunk. 

Charms exist for nearly everything. Hunters carry 
them to protect them from every imaginable disaster. 


An old Kassena at Kayoro who used frequently to take 
me hunting went out covered with them. When 
appearing in my Court nearly everyone would carry a 
charm or mascot to obtain a verdict or to protect them 
when lying. These are to be obtained from liri-tina y 
but generally from itinerant quacks. The latter are 
especially good at making charms to procure evil for 
another, particularly if one can obtain something 
belonging to him on whom one wishes misfortune to 
fall. On one occasion an old man had lost his wife, and 
hearing to whose house she had been lured, he came to 
me. I told him to see the Chief and come back. This 
evidently did not suit him, so I asked why he was 
afraid of the Chief. He said he wasn't afraid of any 
Chief he was as good a man as they ; but if he went 
into the neighbourhood of the man who had stolen his 
wife he would be sure to leave a footprint behind, and 
the man would make " medicine " from the earth so 
impressed and cause him harm. It is not often that 
one meets with such openness. 

Again, if one wishes to make a woman barren one 
has merely to take the loin-string, to which leaves are 
attached, of an old woman and place it beneath the 
hearth-stones. As it dries, so will dry the womb of 
the woman one wishes to harm, provided that one calls 
on the spirit of the old woman to assist. Or one can 
take the string and place it in a prepared hole in a tree. 
As the tree grows and holds the string fast, so will the 
womb be held fast. A proper medicine, however, is 
a drink of water in which copper or brass filings have 
been kept for a long time. The women themselves 
fear the pains of child-birth, and although children are 
greatly desired by their men, they will try sometimes 
to avoid these pains by dancing and running and 
drinking the extraction of astringent roots in the hope 
that children will not be born. A barren woman is 
not necessarily despised. One would not knowingly 
marry such unless one could afford no better and were 


hard pressed for a housewife. But after marriage they 
are left alone, though kept in the house, since women 
are a sign of wealth and are useful in the work of the 
household. No man, however, dare insult them by 
flinging then* barrenness in their face. 

Great power is associated with tails. I don't know 
why. Elephant and lion tails are of great value. A 
horse tail is the sign of a big man ; cow tails are useful 
fly-whisks ; but the donkey tail is the " medicine " par 
excellence of the professional thieves. In an over- 
populated country such as these two Districts, where 
men are loth to detach themselves from the land of 
their fathers, it frequently happens that a child is 
orphaned of near relatives and neglected by those who 
out of charity have sheltered him. Such a child usually 
develops into a thief. Others are professional thieves 
by inclination, or, rather, by the will and influence, 
of spirits. One and all seem to possess a donkey's tail. 
Before setting out on a predatory expedition the thief 
begs the tail for help and then ties the hair into a 
simple knot. He then sets out, and if on his return the 
knot has not untwisted itself he is sure of non- 
discovery. It is not so easy as it seems to tie a knot 
in a donkey's tail. 



PERJURY is common in Court. It is more than 
common it is invariably practised. There 
is no means of preventing this for there is no 
binding oath. It is usual for all these natives to swear 
their story is true by calling on the Earth-spirit to slay 
them after eating a pinch thereof. But such an oath 
is no more binding than a statement prefaced by the 
French expression, " Par bleu." The Earth-spirit has 
no power over a native not belonging to that particular 
community whose earth is eaten. Thus a Zuaragu 
man could eat any quantity of Bolgatanga earth and 
swear by it as much as he liked ; he has nothing to fear. 
And in the case of one falsely swearing on his own 
earth he protects himself by sacrifice, if he is a most 
timid man, or by charms or by the simple device of 
muttering a recantation inaudible to the Court. The 
reason for this is not far to seek. Before the coming of 
the white man there were no Courts. Disputes were 
settled en famille or on the field of battle. They still 
often are, Living more or less closely together, and 
not being able to make a far journey, everyone knew 
the facts of the dispute, and it resolved itself into a 
matter for the old men to decide. This mode of life 
not only accounts for continuous per jury, but explains 
also the inability of the people to understand or 
answer questions. In Court a man merely makes a 
statement, " So-and-so has stolen my cows," or some 
such allegation, and relapses into silence, and only with 
great difficulty can one learn any details. In fact, one 


cannot offhand even learn the complainant's name. 
Here is a verbatim report of the opening of a complaint 
which I amused myself with transcribing : 

Commissioner : Are there any complaints ? 

Court Interpreter (going to the door) : Who wishes 
to see Commissioner ? (No answer.) Has anyone here 
a complaint to make ? (No answer.) The white man 
is going to his house. Do you wish to see him ? 

There are plenty of obvious complainants sitting 
outside. The Commissioner rises, and then all come 
in at once. The Interpreter seizes one and places him 
in front of the Commissioner, who sits down again. 

Commr. : Well, what is your complaint ? 

Intpr. : Speak. Plaintiff : I wish to see the 

Intpr . : Speak. P. : I wish to see the Com- 

Intpr. : Speak. P. : I wish to see 

Intpr. : Speak. P. : Eh ? 

Intpr. : Tell the Commissioner what you want. 
P. : I wish to see him. 

Commr. to Intpr. : What is it all about ? 

Intpr. : I don't know. Commr. : Be quick and 
find out. 

Intpr. : Speak ; the white man is getting angry. 
P. : They have stolen my cows. 

Intpr. : Who has stolen your cows ? P. : They 

Intpr. : Who have ? P. : Men. 

Intpr. : What men ? P. : The thieves. 

Intpr. : What are their names ? P. : Whose 
names ? 

Intpr. : The thieves' names. P. : Does the white 
man want to know the names of the thieves ? 

Intpr. : Yes. P. : Oh ! (Relapses into silence.) 
. . . Why does he want to know their names ? 

Intpr. : He is a white man. P. : Ah ! I will tell 
him the names of the thieves. 


Intpr. : Be quick. iThe white man will get angry. 
P. : The white man will get angry. I will tell him 
the names of the thieves. 

The Commissioner has heard all about the com- 
plaint before, and now begins to put direct questions, 
all of which are answered as above. Eventually the 
man is persuaded to speak out and is asked his name. 

P. : My name ? 

, Intpr : Yes, your name. P. : Ah ! The white 
man wants to know my name ? 

Intpr. : Yes. P. : Akugli. 

Jntpr. : Is that your name ? P. : Yes ; Akugli. 

tfntpr. : Your proper name ? P. : My proper 
name ? | 

Intpr. : Yes. P. : Akugli is my father. He is 
dead. ! | 

Intpr . : No, No ! jThe Commissioner wants to 
know your proper name. 

Plaintiff now is silent for some time, and then says, 
" Oh, my proper name 1 " etc., etc. 

This inability to answer questions arises, I fancy, 
from the impatience of the people, Everyone knows 
his name and everyone knows who stole, or more 
probably detained, the cows. In fact, everyone 
knows all about it. The Chiefs, who are being en- 
couraged to hear the troubles of their own people, are 
equally cognisant of the facts and swearing is un- 
necessary. However, in cases of theft or disputes as 
to women resource is often had to ordeals, though our 
influence is bringing this custom gradually to an end. 
These aie many, and vary from the most harmless to 
the most harmful. Of the former, a good example is 
that of the locust-bean leaves. These are laid over 
each other in alternately facing layers. The suspected 
is asked to draw them apart slowly. If he does so he 
is not guilty, but if he cannot he is presumed guilty. 
It is a curious fact that sometimes these leaves require 
a considerable exertion to pull apart. The most 


serious Is undoubtedly a poison which the two parties 
are required to drink. It is generally feared, but 
innocent people are invariably quite ready to drink it. 
In this case charms are worn as antidotes, and usually 
the Chief sees that these are removed. A third is 
somewhat interesting. It is known as possiga (Nan- 
kanni), and is kept by a special man, possigarana. The 
suspected or disputants are stripped and their stomachs 
smeared with shea-butter. Possigarana seats himself 
and takes a small earthen pot, into which he places 
some kapok cotton. This he stirs with a grass stem 
taken from his sleeping mat. He calls on the spirit of 
possiga to come, and after mysterious passes sets fire 
to the cotton. He seizes the pot and quickly places it 
over his own stomach, likewise smeared with the grease. 
A vacuum is caused and the skin is drawn into the 
pot. After a while possigarana begs the spirit to leave 
him and takes the pot off. He then goes through the 
same performance and places the pot on the bellies of 
the suspected. Possiga will not hold a guiltless man. 
Possigarana will not remove it from the one whose 
stomach is held, but tells all the spectators to go away 
and leave him till he confesses. In Builsa country the 
ordeal principally used is that of boiling shea-butter 
into which one has to plunge one's arm and extract a 

The ordeal by poison (dongo or yaba tiin) is an 
institution throughout the Dagomba, Mamprussi, and 
Moshi countries. It probably consists of a concoction 
from sass-wood, but certainly has earth from the 
tingani, blood and water. The people looked on it as 
an infallible test and endued with supernatural power. 
It is usually fatal, but not immediately. Cases in 
which this test would be used could not have been very 
numerous. The name of the poisonous bark sometimes 
used is lamziri. Roots which cross paths are also 
considered to have the desired Effect. 

Crime is classified by the i elation of the criminal to 


the victim. There were no degrees in wrong-doing. 
Death was the common penalty for murder, theft, or 
adultery, provided the two principal parties were of 
different communities. It mattered not if the prisoner 
was the actual offender or not ; if he was a relative, it 
was enough. For no man could escape from liability 
for wrong committed by one of his blood. It was not 
always possible to catch a criminal or one of his relations; 
the injured family then awaited an opportunity to 
retaliate in kind, either murder, theft, or rape. Difficult 
indeed was it for the old men to restrain their angry 
youths. To-day, of course, times are changing, but 
these old thoughts of rudimentary justice still obtain 
and often are put into practice. 

As for civil wrongs, none could exist, except 
between members of the same community. No man 
trusted one of another community. Marriage was 
usually by rape or purchase, or with a remote family 
connection. Except in the markets, one did not meet 
with other men ; and markets were all in a peculiar 
position, being under the direct control of an Earth- 
god. Violations of his wishes were punishable re- 
ligiously sometimes a community would be, so to 
speak, excommunicated from all intercourse in the 
markets, and all other communities saw to it that the 
order of the market tindana was obeyed. The need 
for the market's existence necessitated the need for the 
observance of its freedom from disturbance an idea 
which in course of time seems to have evolved into that 
of a League of Nations. 

' But civil wrongs between members of the same 
community did exist. A cow belonging to A might 
eat the skin which B had discarded while farming ; or, 
again, A might beat B's children for not tending the 
sheep properly and allowing them to stray into A's 
field. In time of famine A might have agreed to sell 
his growing crops in exchange for food or some sheep 
to B, and B might not have finished the payment 


A would sometimes kill one of B's guinea-fowls in 
mistake for one of his own. If tempers grew too 
heated, then resource was had to arms, and only the 
tindana could fix matters in conjunction with the old 
men. But if prudence prevailed the old men settled the 
trouble amicably. Trivial matters such as these led to 
emigration and to the founding of new communities. 

Serious crime between members of the same 
community was not rare. Adultery and murder 
polluted the earth and the tindana adjudicated. He 
gave the accuser and accused a concoction to drink of 
which the chief compound was some earth from the 
tingani. If this was a poison at all, it was a very mild 
one, but it was of great superstitious worth. To 
partake thus by fiction of the Earth-god himself in 
order to support a lie was to endanger the whole 
community from that god's anger. Other crimes, 
such as killing by witchcraft and stealing, were in- 
vestigated by the old men. (Hence yaba tiin 
medicine of the old men.) If one denied the crime 
one could drink the poison, and in a day or two a 
swelling body would testify to one's guilt, and a little 
later death would prove the veracity of its evidence. 
On the other hand, if one confessed one's guilt, a slayer 
by witchcraft, a man who had cast a spell over another's 
person or property, would merely be warned not to do 
so again, and he would then go and beg the Earth-god 
to help him turn from his evil path. A thief, too, 
would be lightly treated for his first two offences, but 
on the third occasion he lost his eyes, boiling shea- 
butter being used for that purpose. The immunity 
of the self-confessed witches was due apparently to the 
principle that a man was not responsible for the 
actions of his alter ego if he himself disapproved of 
them a curious argument when the liability for a 
relative's transgressions was always recognised. Thieves 
could ransom themselves from undergoing the penalty 
of their misdeeds, but the price was heavy. 


To-day, although not twenty years have elapsed 
since our first coming, but fourteen since white men 
were stationed at Navarro and only nine at Zuaragu, 
all this is fast changing. Ordeal by poison must be 
rare, for every thief knows that by confessing to his 
Chief he will be brought to the white man. Innocent 
people being slain for witchcraft may take place on 
occasions. Assaults and similar offences are to every- 
one's knowledge the affairs for white men to hear and 
decide. The result is an increase in thefts, a decrease 
in deeds of violence. 

Civil wrongs have multiplied and tend to great 
complications. There is in all cases the difficulty, 
amounting almost to impossibility, of hearing or 
obtaining the true details of the crime or wrong. But 
the most important cases, and the most serious, are 
those dealing with the ownership of land. More often 
than not blood is shed over this question of land 
tenure, which I will endeavour to treat in the following 



LAND tenure is always a subject not only of 
absorbing interest, but of paramount im- 
portance. The question of communal 
ownership of lands is one that has been much discussed 
and written about in the Gold Coast, and it has come 
to be accepted generally that the communal system 
obtains among the coast and forest tribes, a generalisa- 
tion which, like all generalisations, is very much open 
to dispute. Thus in the south, with the advent 
of a great wealth-producing and permanent crop 
cocoa the question has arisen in its acutest form. The 
former Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Hugh Clifford, 
in an article in Blackwood? s for January, 1918, thus 
summarises the position as it has become to-day : 

" Theoretically, all land belongs to the tribe, 
though, as we have seen, the family which planted a 
temporary food-patch was regarded as having a certain 
right to the fruits of its collective labour. This was 
a system which it was very natural for a people to 
evolve whose culture did not include any save shifting 
cultivation. The introduction of Agriculture of a 
permanent character was to them, however, an extra- 
ordinary revolution, entailing a change not merely of 
degree but of kind. If the land belonged to the 
tribe, and the fruits which labour wrung from it to the 
tiller 'of it, when the occupation by the latter ran into 
a long period of years, instead of lasting only for a 
season or so, what became of the communal property 


in the soil ? The Twi-speaking native States are 
governed on very democratic principles, which include 
the right of the people to depose a Chief if his personal 
or public conduct does not meet with their approval. 
The position of the planter of a cocoa-garden vis-a-vis 
the tribe was a matter in which the popular will sup- 
ported the individual, as against the community, for 
very soon the vast majority of the tribesmen were 
themselves the planters of cocoa-gardens. Im- 
memorial custom might say one thing, but immediate 
and personal interests said another, and that in tones 
that would take no denial. Accordingly, though the 
theory of the communal ownership of all land stands 
as four square as ever, in practice the property of the 
individual in his cocoa-trees is fully recognised, and it 
passes on his death to his next-of-kin with the rest of 
his personal effects." 

For long now this communal system has been 
recognised as the correct one. To enter into a 
discussion here would not only be futile but not even 
to the point. The fact remains, however, that by 
immemorial custom, so long as the land was occupied 
by an individual, so long was it considered his against 
all comers. The untilled bush was roughly divided 
into spheres of influence for hunting or snail-collecting 
purposes by the community, but any member thereof 
was at liberty to mark out, clear and farm whatever 
portion he might require, and, once in use, that land 
was his till he abandoned it. Moreover, when left 
only for a short time to recuperate its powers, it still 
was his, and should anyone particularly require it, he 
could only do so by obtaining the owner's, i.e., the 
clearer's, consent. 

In the bush away from our influence somewhat 
difficult to find nowadays such a place that is the 
custom to-day. In the Ashanti forest in the Western 
Province is a District known as Ahafo, perhaps the 
least touched of all Districts by the white man. There 


the rights of the clearer of the land hold good against 
all men so long as he is in occupation, and when he 
consents for another to farm thereon, the palm-wine 
trees and the kola gifts of God and not sown by him 
belong to him and not to the man to whom he has lent 
the land. 

The permanency of a village necessarily entails 
individual ownership of the farm lands. This is but a 
corollary of what Sir J. G. Frazer says in his " Folk-lore 
in the Old Testament " : 

" Permanent occupation is essential to individual 
ownership ; it is not essential to communal or tribal 
ownership. And as in human history, the herdsman 
and the migrating husbandman precede the settled 
life of the farmer under the more advanced systems of 
tillage, it seems to follow that individual ownership of 
land has been developed later than communal or tribal 
ownership, and that it cannot be recognised by law 
until the ground is under permanent cultivation. In 
short, common lands are older than private lands, and 
the transition'from communal to private ownership of 
the soil is associated with a greatly improved mode of 
tillage, which in its turn, like all economic improve- 
ments, contributes powerfully to the general advance 
of society." 

There is, then, a graduated scale in the Gold Coast 
in this ownership of lands. On the coast one had a 
temporary individual ownership, cleaning and occupa- 
tion being the test ; further inland, the individual 
owner, after abandoning the use of his land for daily 
requirements, retained, by reason of his labour in 
cleaning it, rights in the valuable tree products which 
Nature planted for him ; and lastly, in the open 
country of the north, one has private property much as 
we know it in our own country. The overcrowded 
state of the land demanded permanency in cultivation ; 
the nature of the crops permits of almost continuous 
cultivation ; the religious beliefs of the people made it 


impossible to desert the rights and property of their 
dead ; the Chiefs of alien stock submitted to these 
beliefs and have never dared to interfere with them, but 
rather themselves follow the customs of the people 
they rule. 

I have before endeavoured to explain how a new 
settlement is made. The Earth-gods naturally demand 
propitiation. It is hard indeed to farm up in the 
north. Crops do not grow so abundantly nor so 
regularly as in the forest. Manuring is necessary; and 
the shortness of the season precludes a man from 
continually making new farms. Hard work will not 
necessarily give a bountiful harvest ; but hard work is 
necessary to live. 

The settler, by virtue of his receiving the new land 
from the nearest tindana^ learns where the Earth-god 
of his locality resides. He will vaguely own an 
indefinite amount of land until a newcomer joins 
him. To him land in turn is allocated, and the process 
continues until a new tingani is discovered, requiring a 
tindana of its own. And, once the land is given, it is 
given in perpetuity. The only remnant of the 
tindana's former ownership is the tithe paid annually, 
a basket of guinea-corn or millet, which the farmer 
renders to the tindana. The total of these tithes is 
exchanged for a sheep or a cow, and this is sacrificed at 
the tingani to the Earth-god, the jwhole ^community 

1 The tindana has therefore gradually become what 
is to all intents and purposes a high priest. He is 
between them and their local deity ; he is on behalf of 
the latter the caretaker of the land, for he alone can 
propitiate the earth when blood is wantonly shed or 
vile crime pollutes the purity of the life-giving |soil. 

It will be seen, then, that the Chief is as regards 
the land no better than his subjects. /Being Chief he 
owns, or rather owned, more workers and [therefore 
required and was able to cultivate more 'ground. 


To-day, as the authority of the Chief, i.e., the political 
head of the people, increases, so does the power of 'the 
tindana wane. In this custom of land tenure we have 
the explanation of the oft-heard saying, " Chiefs 
command people, not the land " a saying frequently 
used when land questions are brought before the white 

\In Nankanni I found some discrepancies as to the 

ownership of the trees. At Biung, near Zuaragu, the 

locust-bean trees were claimed by the tindana of 

Biung ; and generally shea-butter trees in Talansi 

country belonged to the Chiefs. But in these parts 

the confusion of tindanas and Chiefs is extraordinarily 

complex, and not made easier by claims of suzerainty 

by the Chief of Kologu. This has arisen from several 

causes : our interference and pacification of lawless 

and independent tribes ; the subsequent restitutionand, 

in many instances, creation of Chiefships and their 

authority ; the natural revolution which law and order 

brought in their train. But, as a matter of fact, it is 

evident that either the trees belonged to the farmer 

or the tindana. In Kassena and Builsa the farmer 

owns them out and out, no matter what species they 

may be. In the ordered Dagomba and Mamprussi 

country the locust-bean belongs to the Chief, who, as 

I have shown, is the substitute for the tindana by right 

of conquest. But and this exception is of great 

importance where the trees are on farm lands, then 

they belong to the farmer. Be it noted, too, that the 

question relates to the locust-bean tree other trees 

are not troubled about and this great food-producing 

tree is from all evidences not indigenous to the country. 

Hence it would seem to be conclusive that the land, 

and with it the trees, are privately owned by the 

farmer who has received them from the tindana. The 

Chief is not consulted ; but it is obvious that an 

unwelcome stranger would not be allowed to settle on 

the land. 


The bush is wild and uninhabited, save by evil 
spirits and the Earth-gods. The latter are appeased 
by the tindana, or, if he has too large a country to look 
after, by his delegate, the gawrana. It belongs in 
theory to the nearest tindana, and until our advent 
disputes anent its ownership did not arise. To-day 
the young men care not for the Earth-gods, and take 
what bush they please for their new farms, consulting 
neither tindana nor Chief. 

Once the land is allocated, it passes from the control 
or care of the tindana. Here arises much trouble. 
The theory of the ownership is simple, but in practice 
it becomes most complex. Obviously land can never 
be sold. To do so is to place the Earth-god, as it were; 
in servitude. I once made the suggestion of sale, and 
this was most carefully explained by the old men, who 
had heard my blasphemous proposal. But if it cannot 
be sold, it may be leased. In the absence of deeds or 
other documents, and in the failure to understand the 
meaning of time, disputes must arise in abundance. 
The original parties to the contract are long dead, yet 
the grandchildren remember the contract ; and 
often, owing to some quarrel maybe, the offspring 
of the owner will endeavour to eject the offspring of 
the tenant. In practice, occupation is proof pre- 
sumptive of ownership, but in the native mind merely 
serves to aggravate the dispute. One could give 
innumerable examples. 

This leasing of land arises usually when a family or 
compound finds its numbers have decreased and the 
whole amount of the land is no longer required ; and 
again, on the migration of a household, rather than 
have the trouble to return to till the old lands, they 
will often lend the use of them to a friend. In the 
majority of cases the trees are reserved to the lessor. 
In both cases the retention of the lands is due to the 
belief that either one day the family will increase in 
numbers or return once more and so require them. 


But a sub-letting is not tolerated. So far as I could 
learn, that has never taken place ; once the lessee no 
longer wishes for the land it reverts at once to its 

There seems no rule as to notice of ejectment, 
and a man likes to put in his claim at the moment 
most opportune for himself, regardless of the loss of 
labour to his tenant. In old days many were the 
battles fought on this account ; to-day resort is now 
and then had to the bow and arrows, but gradually the 
people are learning that peace and security are better 
than continual bloodshed and uncertainty. 

A case at Arabe may be of interest. One A of 
Sawgni represented a family who had settled in 
Arabe, receiving the land from the tindana. Sickness 
and misfortune caused them to move to Sawgni, but 
they continued to farm round the ruins of their home 
at Arabe. A's father then allowed B to farm over 
the old site and reserved some land near a stream not 
far from the ruins. A's father and B died. A con- 
tinued to farm this small bit, but, finding it too much 
for him, allowed B's son to use it. All went well for 
some time until a piece of ill-fortune came to A, who 
consulted the sorcerers. He learnt that to appease the 
evil spirit it was necessary to plant guinea-corn on the 

Eatch at Arabe. So A repaired to his friend, but the 
itter had already consulted the sorcerers as to what 
to plant there, and they had let him know that millet 
should be the crop. He therefore refused to listen to 
A. A then sought to eject him. 

There is a curious exception to all these rules of 
land tenure. Tobacco in the dry season may be grown 
anywhere, and the owner of the land does not care 
at all. This is quite extraordinary ; tobacco is a 
valuable plant and requires most careful culture. I 
was told that tobacco was not food, and the land was 
not in_ use at the time when it is planted, nor did 
anyone ever trouble about plants which were not food. 


As for pasture land, the bush is ownerless and free 
to everyone. For obvious reasons one will jnot drive 
one's cattle too far away, although in .the dry season 
the children will take them several miles 'down to the 
rivers' edges. Among the compounds are several 
strips of pasture land, and these are used freely by all 
compounds neighbouring to them ; but the land itself 
is generally owned and merely lying at rest. | 

Other than tobacco-growing, which seems certainly 
to be an introduced industry, there is perfect freedom 
to take honey from anyone's trees. The only reserva- 
tion is from those trees close to a man's compound. 
One would have to be very democratic to tolerate that. 

And as in pasture, the women of neighbouring 
compounds are free to cut the grass in damp places, 
from which they make salt. Salt or potash is essential 
to these people and is obtained locally from three 
sources : by burning the guinea-corn stalks, nakia 
(Nankanni), by burning a special grass called jim 
(Nankanni), and by digging up the clay from cattle 
salt-licks. This last earth is called serego (Nankanni). 

M.Tauxier summarises the question of land tenure 
among the neighbouring French tribes thus : 

" En resume, the free bush here belongs to the 
village, but when land has once been cleaned it 
belongs definitively to the compound which has 
cleaned it. The latter can lend it or give it." 

The laws of inheritance add confusion to the 
land laws from our point of view when questions arise 
in practice. Just as the compound in general owns 
land, so does each individual member thereof. When 
one has accomplished the task expected of one by the 
family, one can spend the spare time as one will, and 
often this is passed in farming. The result is that on 
a man's death there arise two rules of inheritance, 
since he has interests in two kinds of property com- 
pound property and private property. His interests 
in the former revert to the head of the family if he is 


himself head, to the eldest male in the male line. His 
interests in the latter to his sons, or, failing them, to his 
brothers ; and the subdivision of his private lands is 
frequently the cause of much trouble. 

From the above it will be seen that communal 
holding of land is no longer known. The cleaner of 
land becomes ipso facto the owner for all time ; and his 
original title is based on his religious practices, the 
request for the land from the caretaker or agent of the 
Earth-god. The rules apply alike to the Chief as to 
the poor man ; the latter is guarded in his holding 
from the former's rapacity or covetousness by religious 
fears ; the former admits by submitting to the rules 
his dependence on the goodwill of the local deity, nor 
does he yet try to alter them lest thereby he jeopardise 
his harvest and so bring face to face with starvation his 
family and himself. 



THESE are all matters of religion or allied to 
such. As a matter of fact, the whole of 
life is one long wrestle with evil spirits, 
from the time when a woman first discovers herself to 
be pregnant till the time of death. 

When a woman is long before she conceives, the 
husband goes to the sorcerer to find out what is the 
cause of the delay. Sometimes it will be the mother 
or the grandmother or an ancestor who is angry 
because no sacrifice has been made to them, and so they 
prevent the wife's pregnancy. Sometimes it is the 
Earth-god or other spirit who is persecuting him, as 
they require a goat, a cow, etc. 

Some men have a medicine to procure pregnancy. 
The most well-known of these was one who lived in the 
Tong Hills. Many men and women used to go to him 
for the necessary charm. It consisted of the mixture 
of roots and earth from these hills. However, it was 
not always effectual. But I rather believe the Earth- 
god of Tinzugu, the community in the hills, was the 
real agent. 

The woman will sometimes offer herself to an 
animal with the promise of giving it a goat, or a sheep, 
or a cow in exchange for a child. 

Although the souls of the dead go to kyirudyega, 
nevertheless, in some cases the dead are re-born in 
infants. For instance, if a child dies soon after birth, 
and the next one is of the same sex, it is believed 


that the dead child has returned. Again, if a child 
resembles his father or his grandfather, they say that 
he is really his father or grandfather. Great care is 
taken of him, and he is honoured as mu/ch as his father. 

To recognise the dead in a new-born infant there 
are many signs. The most common are as follows : 
On the death of an infant the grave-diggers make a 
small mark with ashes on his cheek or on his forehead, 
and when this child is born again he will have the same 
mark on his forehead or cheek. Others, instead of 
marking the child with ashes, fold his little finger, and 
when he is re-born his little finger is bent. 

As soon as it is known in the compound that one of 
the young wives is pregnant for the first time, the 
following ceremony is made, named, in Kassena, ling 
puga. Until one is certain, naturally it cannot be 
performed, since one might thereby cause a mis- 
carriage. The head of the compound takes a hen or a 
guinea-fowl, and goes to the sorcerer to ask him what 
kadikwa (i.e., a woman who is the sister or the kins- 
woman of the husband whose wife is pregnant) he 
must call for this ceremony. On learning her name he 
tells her secretly that she has been chosen. 

The kadikwa then goes at nightfall to the house, 
and enters quietly so that the pregnant woman is 
unaware of her arrival. At dawn the kadikwa gets 
up, takes a pinch of ash, and goes to the entrance of the 
pregnant woman's hut. She then calls her, and as soon 
as she comes out the kadikwa blows the ash in her 
face, and says, " A pire mo" which means, " I know 
you are pregnant ; you cannot hide it from me any 
longer." A woman of the compound then gives the 
kadikwa a special string (black thread or black straw) 
with which she girds the belly of the pregnant woman. 
She takes of? all the pregnant woman's bracelets and 
ornaments and puts them on herself, and has the right 
to wear them for some time. 

Before letting the -kadikwa go home, the head of 


the compound again goes to the sorcerer to ask him if 
she may. If the answer is in the affirmative he returns 
to the compound, and tells the pregnant woman to 
grind some corn and give it to the kadikwa, and himself 
gives her a guinea-fowl, so that on her return to her 
home her husband can make a sacrifice to his ancestors. 
\ After this ceremony, the husband of the pregnant 
woman takes a hen and a guinea-fowl, and goes to the 
house of his father-in-law to notify him of the happy 
event. The father-in-law then accompanies his son- 
in-law to the sorcerer's house in order to find out what 
persons will be " taboo " to the pregnant woman, and 
these the pregnant one is forbidden to see during her 
pregnancy under pain of miscarriage. These persons 
generally are her own mother and sister. 

Some men at the time of delivery go to the sorcerer 
in order to find out what sacrifice is required by the 
spirits for a prompt delivery. If it is laborious, many 
sacrifices are made and many sorcerers consulted, and 
the woman is also given a medicine to ease her. This 
is ordinarily a concoction from the roots of some trees. 
Sometimes roots which cross paths are taken and given 
the woman to drink. These roots hindering the run- 
ning of the water have for them the power of facilitat- 
ing the delivery. Contraria contrariis curantur. 
It is noteworthy that similar roots are often placed in 
the ordeal potion. 

Among these people almost every woman is a 
midwife, and men are very seldom called for this work. 
There are exceptions only when the infant has to be 
drawn out by force. Five or six men in Navarro are 
specialists in this case. 

If the child is a male the mother must remain in 
her room during three days ; if a female she must 
remain four days, because, the woman being very weak, 
it is feared that a man having the evil eye, and looking 
at her, would cause her a serious sickness, or a spirit 
passing by would cast a spell over her. At this time, 


too, if the woman is obliged to go out of the compound 
for her needs, she must put some ash below her navel. 
The ash, being white, has the power to make known 
those who have the evil eye, or those who throw spells, 
and so helps to prevent their evil doings. 

During pregnancy the mother must not eat cold 
food, fresh meat, ground-nuts, or anything that is 
rich or succulent, lest the child become too big and 
the delivery difficult. Honey especially is dangerous, 
and in their language they say, " Honey drinks the 
foetus." At this time the mother sleeps always on the 
right or the left side. She must not turn over on the 
ground, for that would cause the navel-string to twist 
itself round the neck of the infant, so when she wishes 
to change her side for sleeping she has perforce to get 
up. Sexual intercourse is not forbidden, but dancing 
and running are. After delivery the mother must 
not drink cold water, she must put ash in her soup 
for a month or so. The woman is called during this 
time ka-songo. 

Women have generally intercourse with a man only 
after two years, because they are convinced if they 
become pregnant again before the children can eat 
native food they will die. 

A mother is not regarded as unclean, but after the 
delivery her husband often refuses to eat food made by 
her because of the blood which might get therein. 
Before being readmitted to society, i.e., after three 
days if it is a male child, and four days a female child, 
there is a small ceremony. The leaves of a plant called 
by the natives kmaghla are taken and boiled. When 
the extract is tepid, they pour it on the mother's head. 
She can then go out of the compound. 

During the pregnancy of his wife a man must not 
perform work considered unclean. ,For instance, he 
must not help bury the dead. The smell of the dead, 
with which he would become impregnated, would cause 
a miscarriage to his wife. 


Immediately after delivery the mother is given 
tepid water with red pepper and flour to drink, and 
her body and the body of the infant are washed. For 
about eight days the mother eats only guinea-corn, 
not millet. The child is anointed twice a day with 
shea-butter. The first and second day the infant 
sucks another woman's milk until it is known that the 
mother's milk is good. This is learned by putting in 
it a small ant, and if it dies the milk is not good. 
The purity of the milk is also known by placing in the 
mother's milk a pod of the locust-bean. I don't know 
the test. If the milk is bad, the woman herself makes 
a concoction from another tree and drinks it. The 
child is given much water every day in the first three 
or four days after the delivery, water in which guinea- 
corn has been boiled. Later a kind of grass named 
tyellatyega is boiled, and he drinks that till the ceremony 
called seem is performed. 

\ The after-birth is placed in a small water-jug which 
has a hole in the bottom and buried in the tampuri. 
The broom with which they gather up the after- 
birth and the blood of the mother is taken by her on 
her return to society, and, at the first cross-roads on the 
path leading to her father's house, is placed in the form 
of a cross when it is a girl, and in the form of a T 
when it is a boy, and in the centre of this cross she 
breaks a fragment of a water-jug. 

They cut the navel-string about two inches from 
the belly of the infant, and when some blood remains 
at the cutting of the navel-string this blood is put in 
the mouth of the child, for it is his life, they say. The 
mother then takes the navel-string and twists it round 
her finger three times when it is a boy and four times 
when the infant is a girl. The string left with the 
body of the Infant dries up and falls down. The 
mother then places it in the shell of a shea-nut, and 
places this in the wall of her room, generally over the 
entrance. Thus she keeps count of all her children. 


The child is given a name, generally by the head of 
the compound, the grandmother and the father. 
The names are borrowed from different circumstances 
of native life or from events occurring at the time of 
the birth. The most common are Ada for a man and 
Kada for a woman ; Apuri, Kapuri, given on account 
of the death of the preceding child ; Atyana (tyana, 
moon), Katyana, for children born on the first day of 
the moon ; Awia, Kawia (wia, sun), born during the 
daytime ; Adum, Kadum (dum, sowing- time), born 
at seed-time ; Abuga, Kabuga (buga, river), born 
when the mother has gone to the river to fetch water ; 
Ane, Kane (ne, feet), born feet first. Others, again, 
are named Awe (We, God), Fella (white man), Tigura 
(war), Kwora (thorn), Tangwam (the sacred grove), 
Tanga (earth), etc., etc. 

There is no particular rule about naming a child 
after its parents or grandparents, except when it 
resembles them, when it will bear their name. 

The ceremony of seem (Kassena), dawbasi 
(Nankanni), yamba (Mossi), mentioned before, takes 
place when the child is about two years old, the 
parents meeting together to fix the time. When 
something unusual takes place, illness or death, is 
often the occasion of this ceremony. It consists in 
the consecration of the infant to a totem or to an 

The head of the compound or the father takes a 
hen and goes to the sorcerer to ask him what totem or 
ancestor desires to take the child under his care. On 
his return home he relates all he has learned of the 
requirements of the child. Seem then takes place, and 
the child is given another name. 

If it is a boy to be consecrated, a cock is taken for 
sacrifice ; if a girl, a guinea-fowl. A water-pot is set 
up containing chewed roots. "The pot is then placed 
on a little mound built in honour of the totem or the 
ancestor, and the cock or the guinea-fowl is killed on 


the usual stone placed on the mound. Some drops of 
blood are poured on the water-pot, and feathers stuck 
on the blood. In doing this they usually say : "I 
give you this cock and this infant ; watch him ; take 
care of him ; see that his mother and he be always in 
good health." 

The mother meanwhile has made food, and the 
parents, having roasted the liver, the heart, and the 
lungs of the bird, place them with a small part of the 
food on the water-jug, and they say again : " See, I 
give you food and a bird to eat. I beg you to keep all 
diseases and evil from the mother and the child." 

They then take the bones of the bird and tie them 
round the loins of the child. 

In the afternoon they will take the water from the 
pot and wash the infant. Every day he is forced to 
drink some of the water, and the same calabash, 
without being washed, is used. 

There is another ceremony worthy of note which 
takes place when a child is born and is believed to be 
the re-incarnation of its dead brother or sister. It is 
called ting-daro. The babe is taken almost im- 
mediately after birth and placed on the tampuri 
(midden), where it is pulled a little way by a woman. 
The reason would seem that the former child lies 
buried there. It may, however, be a fictitious burial 
to deceive the spirit which took away the babe at its 
first birth, for a belief in the efficacy of such fictions is 
prevalent. Children are given abusive names, such as 
Kaba (slave), Kassena ; Aiyamaga (slave), Nankanni ; 
Atampuri, and so on, when former children have died 
In infancy ; and for the same reason one will often see 
a child with its face marked with the tattoo of an alien 
tribe. It is, so to speak, done in order to change one's 
luck. The same idea seems to be the reason why a 
man of these tribes will nearly always give himself a 
strange name when enlisting in Government service. 

This is similar to the Ga custom of the Accra nations, 


who throw the child away when he is supposed to be 
the re-incarnation of a dead brother, and bring him 
back from the earth, placing a few cowries or coppers 
on the rubbish heap. Such children are often named 
Acheafom, which means, I believe, " thrown away." 

When an infant dies the mother shaves her head 
and girds herself with a string made from a hibiscus, 
cultivated everywhere for its fibre. After a month 
she makes a fresh shaving and a new string is put on, 
this time one dyed red ; a third shaving takes place, 
and the string is changed to one of plaited grass. No 
intercourse with a man may take place, and the 
woman may wear no personal adornment. Three 
months after the death, if the babe was a boy, four 
months if a girl, the bereaved mother goes to her 
father's house and takes with her her sleeping-mat and 
her calabashes, and her own mother gives her new 

Always the numbers three for a boy and four for 
a girl ! I could find no explanation. 

It recurs again in the funeral customs. M. 
Tauxier mentions this among the Nunume : " The 
funeral ceremony lasts three days if it is for an old 
man, and four if for an old woman', for the number 
three is for males and four for females (thus they name 
a boy three days after his birth, a girl four days 
after). . . ." Again, among the Kassena-Fra, a few 
of which tribe are to be found at Kayoro, Nakon, and 
villages in Tumu District in British territory, he 
says : " At Nitiedugu the grave-diggers are given 
three fowls for a man, four for a woman," and later, 
when speaking of the slaying of witches : " Next 
morning (i.e., after the slaying) the witch comes in 
search of you, three times if he is a male, four times if 
a female." 

In a previous chapter I have related how twins are 
regarded either as devils or human beings, and one can 
only find this out by consulting the sorcerer's stones. If 


they are declared human, a certain dread of them is 
noticed. They have to be treated in exactly the same 
way. Each will have his own particular breast ; later 
their food, presents, etc., will always be alike until 
their marriage. Twins may be caused by witchcraft. 
There is a magic medicine which will do this. It is 
put on a stone in the field where the woman is sure 
to come for leaves and other ingredients for her 
cooking. Should she sit thereon twins will surely be 
born to her. 

The usual explanation, however, is that bearing 
twins is a hereditary failing. 

Children are ordinarily suckled until their mother 
becomes pregnant again, which is at least two years 
later. Should the mother die, the babe is nourished 
by a woman of the compound, but there would seem 
no tie occasioned thereby, for in all matters pertaining 
to a child the rights are vested in the father, to whom 
it belongs outright. 

Selling one's own children is, of course, not openly 
practised to-day ; but several people, commenting on 
the famine early in 1919, said that had it not been for 
the white man's presence, which provided safety in 
travelling to more favoured parts, they would have had 
to sell their own offspring. Similarly adoption would 
be abhorrent, but a custom exists for a son to give his 
eldest male and female children to the grandfather on 
the father's side, and another custom of exchanging 
the ownership of the eldest children between two 

The last important event in early childhood is the 
first hair-cutting. The date for this depends, like 
every other unusual operation, on the verdict of the 
sorcerer's stones. These first shorn locks are kept by 
the mother in the roof of her hut. Should the child 
belong to the chameleon family the hair is never 
shaved, as is the common practice, but is cut. 

Sometimes at the first cutting a tuft of hair is left 


at the back of the head to ensure the mother obtaining 
more children. 

From now on the child is to all intents left alone, 
accompanying its mother about the compound and to 
the field. It is said that in this way the Nankanni 
families have learned to speak Kassena and forgotten 
Nankanni, and vice versa. As children they learned 
the speech of their mothers, who in Navarro were 
nearly always Kassena, because a marriage between 
blood relations, however remote, is abhorrent to these 
people. Thus, so long as a man remains in the district 
settled by his own people he can never marry a girl of 
that district nor of a district formed by emigrants 
therefrom. It will be seen that this prohibition 
affects relatives in the male line, since the girls are 
given in marriage to outside communities. There 
seems no rule to prevent marrying a relative on this 
female side ; once gone from her father's land she is 
soon forgotten, and in a short time her offspring are 
marriageable to her male relatives in her home district. 
1 \It is the proximity of the blood tie which prevents 
these marriages. There is no particular reason given 
for these rules forbidding marriage of near relations. 
But if blood relationship is discovered after a marriage 
it is obvious the tie will be a loose one and dated 
from some generations back- a small ceremony is 
usually observed in order to avoid possible evil. A 
calabash is taken and the married couple pull it apart, 
each taking hold of the brim. They may then con- 
tinue to co-habit. 

Children grow up together and sleep in the same 
hut until they reach a marriageable age. This in itself 
is not naturally conducive to immorality ; but it 
would be hard indeed to find even one virgin in the 
two districts. The Kassena are particularly loose in 
this respect, the Nankanni and Builsa women are not 
so openly flagrant in their vices. It is a common 
practice for a man to invite his friend to have 


intercourse with one of his wives, especially if the hus- 
band is an old man. The reason is that the old men are 
the rich men, and so control the market of the women, 
and so long as women are regarded as chattels, and 
acquiesce therein, so long will this be so. Old men 
will have the women, and only illicit intercourse is 
possible for the youth of either sex, since youth must 
be satisfied. 

To obtain a wife, the usual method is to conciliate 
her parents by frequent visits and small presents such 
as salt, fowls, etc. During this time some parents are 
quite content to permit intercourse, since they still 
retain the ownership of the girl, and, unless her 
temporary husband can satisfy their requirements in 
the shape of presents, will eventually own the children. 
But others consider it an honour if a daughter of theirs 
proves to be virgin at the time of excision. This 
ceremony is a public one and the occasion for much 
dancing. Anyone may attend, but I found no 
opportunity to do so. The girls are usually about 
fourteen years at the time. Circumcision of the boys 
is not performed. In Nankanni, or, rather, certain 
parts of their country, a custom is observed of a fixed 
price for a woman. It is four cows, payable only after 
the birth of children, and in reality this price conveys 
the ownership of the children to the father, and is, I 
was told, the reason for the practice. In Kassena and 
Builsa there seems to be no definite price or present the 
acceptance of which once and for all conveys a woman 
from her family to that of her husband, with the 
result that almost invariably a girl will, on returning 
to her father's compound for funeral customs, etc., be 
given to another man. DDisputes innumerable arise 
from this, as well as from the growing practice of the 
girl to ignore their family's wishes and to go to the 
husband of their choice. This last is progress, but 
unfortunately it leads to a maze of entanglements. 
First the girl will not rest content with her choice ; at 


in II.SA \vo.\i i-:\ IN NAKON MAKKHT. 

[face p. 


the smallest provocation she will go to another man ; 
at the least misfortune all the inherent superstition 
that is in her will tell her that it is due to disobedience ; 
and, lastly, her relatives will persistently persecute her 
with coaxing and cajoling and threats. Many of these 
women, having tasted emancipation, are not satisfied 
until they have tried even as many as ten husbands. It 
is not the white man who has brought this about. 
Such has been the practice for long past. It led to 
murder and war and raids ; to-day it leads to disputes 
and complaints beyond number, and incidentally at 
times to a half-crazy Commissioner. Once I was 
asked by a girl to choose for her a husband. She came 
to me with her aunt, and said she had two husbands but 
only wanted one. She ran through the catalogue of 
their qualifications, but considered these were balanced. 
Would I give my casting vote ? The aunt, who was a 
very aged dame, explained how she had had seven 
husbands, but had eventually returned to her first. 
I suggested the girl should do the same ; but she replied 
she had no use for him at all, and had left her child 
with him in full settlement. The two men in question 
were quite new husbands. 

Injured husbands do not want a monetary award 
from adulterers. The giving of cowries and cash 
savours of sale, and to accept such would not only 
insult one's errant wife but her family. Such an insult 
might stir up the spirits of her dead and cause all 
manner of evil. No ; he is content with getting the 
woman back to him ; and, once in his compound, he 
will try to pacify her by presents and food. Cruel 
enough as they all are to thieves, they are not unkind 
to their wives or their children. Fear prompts this 
kindness. No one is afraid to die in a moment of 
temper, and a woman will frequently stab herself with 
a poisoned arrow. Such a catastrophe would almost 
ruin the husband. There are all manner of spirits to 
pacify, spirits to cleanse as well as outraged relatives 


to appease. If an arrow is not handy these women, 
and men too, hurl themselves, head first, at stones and 
trees or anything hard which might put an end to 
their grief. Many such cases have come to me ; twice 
I witnessed men throw themselves at a mud wall in a 
paroxysm of anger ; one smashed the wall and was 
unconscious for a short time, the other happened to 
hit a stone with his head. Neither the stone nor the 
head were injured. All these people are extra- 
ordinarily high-strung. In a moment of grief and 
anger they are not responsible for their actions. A 
young girl was watching while her sister's infant died. 
She rushed from the hut and hurled herself at the 
wooden tree-stumps which acted as the gate-posts. 
She cracked her skull, and the stump broke her arm and 
the outside wall. She picked herself up and went 
screaming into the guinea-corn. She was eventually 

Madness is no rare ailment. Hot-tempered men 
not infrequently run amok and resort on the slightest 
pretext to their arrows. In these cases their war-cry 
is not responded to, and their own relatives, often at 
the cost of their lives, intervene to subdue the madman. 
One of the most curious forms of insanity to digress a 
little is met with in men. I came across four or five 
cases. These lunatics from early childhood forget their 
sex and adopt the habits and customs of the women. 
They clothe themselves in*the latest fashion of leaves 
(men being either naked or dressed in skins or loin- 
cloths), they help with the cooking and household 
work reserved for the female element, and they even 
imitate the walk of women. Men do s not despise 
them ; they merely look on them as women. And 
the women themselves are indifferent, naturally refuse 
sexual intercourse, but are glad of their greater 

To return to the subject of women and marriage) 
there are two other methods of obtaining a wife 


Frequently a married woman, after visiting her father's 
compound, will bring back a younger sister to help her 
in the housework. This girl is looked on as a new wife 
to the husband, no matter what her age, nor does he 
resist as a rule having intercourse with her. Even if 
the girl only remains one night in her brother-in-law's 
compound, it is considered a marriage. Disputes 
between the husband and the parents are very common, 
and there are no rules in this matter. 

One writes of marriage. It is misleading. A 
woman is looked upon primarily as a begetter of 
children, and secondly as a preparer of food. Except 
among the Nankanni, adultery is not even an offence. 
In this it would seem that the Nankanni show a closer 
connection with the Moshi than with the Mamprussi 
or Dagomba. They the Nankanni did not resort 
to their bows and arrows as a rule over the infidelity of 
a wife. It was a matter of settlement by payment of 
cows. A stick or dead tree was marked off and cows 
were tied to it by the neck till no room could be found 
for more. The reason for this severe penalty was that 
adultery, naturally enough, could hardly take place 
other than through a member of the community. The 
blood tie was violated and the Earth-god angered. 
Other men would not content themselves with mere 
adultery ; they would seize the woman herself. An 
opportunity to commit a single act of adultery was 
not easy to find. Among the Kassena and Builsa it 
was otherwise. For a relative or friend or member of 
the same community all men were, and are, quite 
prepared to offer the services of a wife. It is an 
ordinary courtesy. The essential thing is the children, 
and they, no matter who their father, belong to the 
owner of their mother. Every woman has, besides her 
husband, one or two favourite lovers to whom her 
husband has no objection. 

Efforts are made to prevent the prevalent im- 
morality. There is at Wiassi a powerful spirit who 


cares not for adultery. To commit that social crime 
in that particular part is to offend him, and culprits 
must pacify him with sacrifices. Frequently at the 
time of delivery a woman in her anguish will call that 
her lovers have " tied her." They must pacify the 
spirit of the place and make sacrifices on the path 
leading to the house. The amount of the sacrifice 
apparently depends on the extent of the friendship or 
otherwise between the offender and the husband. It 
is noteworthy that in this ceremony the first fowl 
killed is not eaten. It is thrown away, and, moreover, 
it is slain by being beaten to death on a stone, differing 
thereby from the usual method of slaying in sacrifice, 
which is by throat-cutting. 

A third way of obtaining a wife is by capture. It 
is commonest among the Kassena, although not 
unknown among the other tribes, and is a practice 
which is dying out under our influence. The girl is 
carried off by men or women of the man's compound. 
She is exceptionally well treated, but kept a prisoner 
by the women. All sorts of presents are given her, and 
not infrequently she agrees, and then her parents 
are informed and usually pacified. This method is 
adopted with consenting girls but dissenting parents. 
The latter, however, by long tradition, still maintain 
control over the girl, and probably she will eventually 
return to them if they are long in withholding their 

OIn cases of divorce the universal practice in these 
parts is for the family of the wife to return to her 
husband the presents received from him, provided 
there are no children by the marriage. Should there 
have been offspring, then no repayment is made unless 
the husband demands it, in which case the children 
belong to the family of their mother. 

The prevalent immorality is noted by M. Tauxier, 
who mentions it as a custom peculiar to all these 
tribes which by neighbours are designated Grunshi. 


He says : " When a woman deceives her husband, he 
beats her and her lover. Then the latter sends and 
asks for forgiveness, either by himself or through his 
family, with presents varying according to locality. . ]. . 
In some places the husband, after having beaten his 
wife, tells her to go and live with her lover. Then the 
lover's family bring back the woman and ask for 
forgiveness, and the next day the lover himself comes 
with a fowl, a ball of tobacco and some firewood. 
Whichever procedure is followed, if the husband 
accepts the presents, he gives the lover permission to 
have intercourse with his wife. . . . When permission 
is given, the lover has the right to use the woman as 
well as the husband, but on certain regular conditions : 
first, that the children who might be born from this 
tripartite establishment will belong as before to the 
husband, which is obvious ; and again, the lover will 
have to come from time to time to help the husband 
in farming his fields. If the husband's house falls 
down, he will help to rebuild it. He will bring him 
small presents, such as firewood for the cold season. 
He will bring the woman presents also, such as guinea- 
fowls. If she has small patches of ground-nuts or 
ground-peas, he will tend them for her. In short, he. 
will have certain strict obligations to perform for the 
husband and woman. . . ." 

This is a custom which I could not find among the 
Nankanni, Talansi, or Nabdam ; nor do I believe it 
prevalent in Dagomba or Mamprussi. Certainly it 
is not in Moshi. I imagine this is a remnant of 
polyandry, just as is the custom of iiwia and is peculiar 
to the Kassena and Builsa. 



AMONG the Builsa and Kassena a most 
acceptable present during the stage of 
wooing is a dog. It is considered a delicacy, 
although it is so foul a feeder. Indeed, dogs are 
specially used by the women as scavengers, and early 
in the morning one is always hearing them cry " Dog ! 
dog ! " to call him back to clean up the filth of the 
night. But the people here are all unclean eaters. 
They x care not which hand they use in feeding- unlike 
the Ashanti, who reserves his right hand for dirty 
work and his left for clean. I have seen sights fit to 
turn one's stomach ; but these people are indifferent. 
There is a field-rat which is greatly desired. They are 
taken at the time of burning grass, when clumps are 
left after the fire has first gone through. The animals 
are pounded up in their skins and no effort is made to 
disembowel them. When the pounded animal is 
putrescent it is eaten. 

\Few things are inedible. Except for one's totem, 
all meat is devoured, fowl, flesh, and fish. Snakes and 
caterpillars of Cirina butyrospermii, the shea-butter 
pest, frogs, and even lizards all find their way to the 
local stomachs. The usual food, however, is millet, 
guinea-corn, beans, ground-nuts and divers roots. At 
the end of the dry season there is usually great scarcity, 
and the improvident ones seek out many weeds and 
the new leaves of trees. One Nankanni brought me 
twenty-two edible weeds from a field in front of my 


house at Zuaragu. Once the first rains begin, the shea- 
butter, baobab, locust-beans and other fruits mature 
and help to carry on till the early crop of millet. 
Curiously enough, there is grown no sweet or succulent 
fruit, but arboriculture is not unknown, for stro- 
phanthus and Trephosia vogelii are cultivated, and 
kapok and certain species of acacia are tended. 

Planting usually takes place after the second or 
third rain, and the farms are prepared at the beginning 
of the dry season and hoed over once more after the 
first rain. The method of obtaining land has been 
explained before. So long as the family remains in 
that district, so long the land belongs to them. There 
is no communal holding. A title once given by the 
tindana is good in perpetuity. 

This question of land is of far greater seriousness 
than that of women. Land is so intricately mixed 
up with the religious belief' it is so large a factor in 
their lives, since the crops are not always successful, and 
only recently has the bush come to be farmed ; it holds, 
too, the dead founders of the household' that disputes 
have led, and lead to-day, to much fighting and blood- 
shed. The tindana must prevent this. The Chief 
knows nothing of the land and may be resident miles 
from the area in dispute. The tindana arrives and 
places his " hat " a bowl-shaped cap made of string 
and dyed black on the ground, and then requires 
peace. Should some hot-headed youth continue or 
commence the battle, he is marked, and in course of 
time, when peace has been restored, the tindana pro- 
claims him tuku (Nankanni), and a tuku man can never 
again be given assistance in his farming. Without such 
help from friends and relatives a man cannot possibly 
farm enough for his requirements. Men not under this 
disability beg people to come and hoe for them, and in 
reward provide them with beer and dancing. There is 
little trouble to get labour this way, only one cannot get 
it quickly. Every native is willing to help his neighbour 


unless there is some private dispute between them, and 
they make the work the occasion for much singing and 
jollity. I twice saw large crocodiles cut out of the 
land probably twenty yards long and asked what 
they were for, and on both occasions I was told that 
after farming a man's land they had cut these out to 
play and to amuse themselves, and had got their fathers 
to sit on the carving while watching their dancing. 

The implements used are hoes, which are shaped in 
the form of an ordinary spade, with the four angles 
pointed and a ring to fix on the end of a V-shaped 
stick. Small axes are used for cutting the shrubs and 
trees, and these are shaped somewhat like our own and 
fixed on a similarly cut stick as that for hoes, a shape 
which makes it easy to carry on the shoulder. Planting 
is done by women and children. A long pole with a 
paddle-like end well planed down is used to make the 
holes and the women and children drop in the seeds 
and cover over with a swift movement of the foot The 
field is merely roughly hoed up, but in the case of 
sweet potatoes, ground-peas, and Frafra potatoes it is 
heaped up in ridges. Fields surrounding the com- 
pounds are manured naturally by the inhabitants 
thereof and those a little way off by the manure from 
the goat and sheep-pens. Cow-dung is wanted to 
make waterproof the outside walls of the houses. Rice 
is being gradually introduced, and yams are not doing 
badly round Navarro, but are apparently a failure in 
Builsa and Nankanni country. 

Early millet and guinea-corn are planted in the 
same field usually, but the later millet is grown alone. 
In the bush-farms, which are usually far distant, for 
convenience sake the crop is a single one. Apart from 
frequent hoeing, no particular attention is paid to 
the growing crops, but in Builsa country, from before 
dawn till sundown, children and women are stationed 
on platforms erected in the fields, and shout and 
cast stones from slings and keep shaking long lines 


of string to which broken pottery and bones, and even 
pieces of tin and feathers, are attached to scare away the 
large flocks of small birds that come to satiate their 
hunger on the ripening grain. 

Harvest is in June and July for early millet and 
November for guinea-corn and late millet. The other 
crops are gathered at intervals between these dates. 
There is thus a long gap, which is tided over by storing 
the grain, but is most frequently a period of semi- 

Women and men alike are great devotees to 
tobacco. It is smoked, chewed, and taken as snuff. 
The women are particularly partial to the pipe. I 
have never seen one chewing or snuffing. These pipes 
are made of a clay finer than that of everyday pots; 
they are frequently moulded into all shapes and sizes, 
and their mouthpiece is attached by string or worked 
leather. The stem is the stalk of a specially cultivated 
shrub which I cannot identify, and is often as much as 
four feet long. The pith is extracted and the wood 
dried. There seem no particular rites attached to 
smoking, but it is a curious fact that, if tobacco is a 
recent introduction, say five hundred years old, one 
finds here a pagan people, cut off by their customs from 
outside influence and with the scantiest inter-com- 
munication even among themselves, ultra-conservative 
by nature and by their occupation as agriculturists, 
and yet expert growers of a foreign plant* a plant that 
requires special treatment differing from every other 
crop they harvest. For tobacco is first grown in 
nurseries and is later transplanted to the tobacco-fields. 
And here these people have learned to produce the 
crop in three different ways. The highly-manured 
piece of land outside their compound door, the sandy 
under-cliffs on the river-banks deep under water till 
late October, the rich soil with which the rivers have 
covered the neighbouring fields in the great September 
flood are alike used for tobacco-growing ; and curiously 


enough, land which is known by all to be the property 
of a certain man is cultivated in common once the 
guinea-corn is harvested, nor does the tindana interfere. 
When asked if there were ever any disputes as to 
tobacco farms the reply is always given : " Why 
should there be ? Tobacco is not food." This last 
is, I think, a proof of its foreign origin, but it is to my 
mind an extraordinary effort for these people to have 
mastered tobacco cultivation, to have invented pipes, 
and to have discovered a plant useful for their 

Farms are protected from thieves by many different 
medicines. Usually there are stones marked with 
crosses, even zwastika. (I have just read in an article 
by Sir Ray Lankester that the zwastika is but a recent 
introduction in Africa. Throughout these parts, from 
Dagomba country northward, the commonest form of 
stone-marking is a cross enclosed in a square or a 
circle with variations inclining towards a good speci- 
men of a zwastika.) Others are fowl feathers, horns, 
bits of old bed-mats, and so forth, suspended to sticks. 
What particular power they are supposed to have I 
know not, and it is likewise, I presume, the ignorance of 
the native on this point which makes for the greater 
efficacy of the " medicine." I once saw a man stoop 
and pull up some ground-nuts. His friend pointed 
out the medicine and the man dropped them like a hot 
coal, or rather quicker, because these people handle 
glowing embers without seeming to notice anything 
particularly warm. There are counter-medicines of 
which thieves avail themselves, but the ordinary 
individual is an honest man out here, i 

One of the most remarkable features, to my mind, 
that I have noticed among these natives is a not 
uncommon practice of dealing in futures. Perhaps 
the cotton and grain exchanges had their origin in a 
similar way. For a variety of reasons'hunger, lack of 
labour, etc.- a man may be unwilling to harvest his 


crop. He sells it outright as it stands. He will even 
sell it before the grain is visible. All the tribes do this, 
and the Earth-god is not in the least offended, although 
the sale of the land would be a crime than which 
nothing could be more sacrilegious, more anarchical, or 
more certain to lead to war. 

Cattle, goats, and sheep are numerous. They are 
herded by the small boys, whose duty it is to see that 
they do not wander in the growing crops* a duty, 
needless to say, much neglected. For the children 
gathering together give themselves up to play. They 
have a special game akin to hockey, making special 
hard sticks to hit a stone in lieu of a ball, but there is 
no ulterior motive such as goal-getting. The great 
idea is to keep the stone away from the others. More 
serious games are pitched battles, clubs being used, and 
the aim robbery of the defeated's lunch, which is 
either an ear or two of millet or some toasted ground- 
nuts. Challenges are given, and the children take the 
cattle away from the sight of their fathers' compounds. 
Parents apparently do not approve of cracked skulls 
for their children and chastise delinquents with 
guinea-corn stalks- a very mild form of whipping' or, if 
very angry, forget to give them supper, which is the 
one and only meal for everyone during the day. 
Meanwhile the cattle enjoy the crops. Goats and 
sheep are frequently tethered. But these grass lands 
are not common property ; they are farm lands 
temporarily lying fallow. 

Cows and dogs play a sufficiently intimate part in 
everyday life to warrant their receiving names ; sheep 
and goats are too numerous. As an example, 
Tarma-yeli-kunsokre, which means roughly that " a 
poor man cannot question the doings of a rich man." 
So much for a dog. Aiyan-malifaw was the name of a 
cow. This supposed a dispute between the cows, when 
one said to another, " I am better than you," and the 
other replied, " That may be so, but I am better than 


an antelope." This last is the meaning of the name. 
These are usually bestowed by the small boys. 

Horses are not indigenous to the country, nor are 
they usually healthy when living therein. Before the 
white man's advent they were rare indeed and to 
their use Babatu owed much of his prowess. The 
stony nature of Nankanni and Talansi country is 
probably the reason for their 'immunity from his 

; Bees are common property. Anyone is at liberty 
to take their honey, no matter on whose farm they 
have nested. The taking is done with fire and smoke. 
The bees are in theory supposed to go to the top of the 
tree out of the way when one robs their home. In 
practice this is not always so. Personally I never 
approached the tree at this time. Honey finds a 
ready market and the wax is used by blacksmiths for 
the cire perdu process in moulding rings, etc. 

Guinea-fowls are very numerous. They do not 
sit on their own eggs, and these are given to fowls to 
take care of. In this way each year the stock is 
renewed. Fowls are usually kept for sacrificial oc- 
casions, but guinea-fowls are eaten quite commonly. 
One man I know had an enormous flock. He did not 
know their number, but when they were young had 
counted over two thousand, keeping stones for reckon- 
ing. This flock would entirely be eaten by his household 
in two seasons and again renewed. The guinea-fowls 
frequently roost away from the trees near their home 
compound and so cause many disputes, because one 
can only catch them by knocking them over first. A 
man identifies his guinea-fowl or fowl or duck by 
marking their feet or comb, mutilating one or more 
joints. \ 

Usually sheep and cattle are not marked. Their 
Value is great, and they are so closely connected with 
the family that one knows them as one knows one's 
brother. But if the flock is very large, as in Builsa 


country, however, frequently red or blue marks are 
placed on them. 

In Builsa there is a curious custom that if a man 
sees a cow giving birth to a calf, and attaches a string 
to that calf's neck, it will become his. This custom 
is known as nissim. Everywhere there is a practice of 
giving one's cattle or sheep or other property to a 
friend or relative to look after. From a Commis- 
sioner's point of view this is a terrible custom. Some- 
times they are left for years and the caretaker comes to 
look on them as his own. Should the caretaker die, 
and his property be divided among his sons, the owner 
of the sheep ordinarily puts in a claim to it all. It is 
a curious custom, but is deeply rooted. Even soldiers 
returning from East Africa to their homes gave to a 
friend their money to look after and accepted their 
friend's for the same purpose. Again, when a rich 
man dies, his property is usually more or less equally 
divided and then the sons take it to the oldest male in 
the family, who looks after it for them and who in turn 
divides the herd among his friends to look after. It 
is a complicated state of affairs, but tends to bind a 
gradually loosening family tie and has the effect of 
placing more power over the young men in the hands 
of the aged. Thus a son of a dead rich man when 
requiring a wife will have to beg his old relative for the 
necessary cows, even though they are his own rightful 
inheritance. Unless the boy was a good one, i.e., a good 
help to the old man, he would probably experience some 
difficulty in getting them, although the old man would 
admit they were his property. It has also the effect of 
making the family responsible for the evil doings of one 
of its individuals ; for when a man has carried off a 
woman, or stolen some property, the outraged family 
will often content themselves with taking any property 
corresponding in value from the community to which 
the evildoer belonged. 

In Nankanni and Kassena hunting and fishing are 


usually done in common. The former takes place at 
the time of the annual grass-burning, which corresponds 
with the season for arrow-poisoning and serves to test 
the strength of the poison. Formerly it was the 
occasion to pay off many a vendetta, and the arrow 
of the slayer would provide a certain identification of 
the community responsible. The old men were 
usually unable to restrain the youths and a war resulted. 
I have never seen poison made here, but am told that 
its ingredients are strophanthus and frogs' and snakes' 
heads. Strophanthus is not cultivated now, nor has 
it been for many years. It is an evil thing, and the 
Earth-god required considerable sacrifices. Curiously 
enough, there is quite a good trade in the prepared 
poison towards the north, a trade that has existed for 
many years, and the strophanthus from the Tong Hills 
was specially preferred. 

Hunting in company merely consists of driving and 
rounding up the bush with the help of fire. Nowadays 
but little game is killed, and that chiefly small animals, 
from duikers down to mice, with an occasional kob or 
roan. There are a few individuals who devote their 
time to hunting. They gain a certain livelihood by 
the sale of roan and buffalo horns for musical instru- 
ments and war helmets, the last consisting of the horns 
mounted either on calabashes or caps woven from 
rushes and grass. 

The Builsa are the best hunters, and their country 
contains plenty of game, from elephants and lions to 
roan, hartebeeste, kob, waterbuck, buffalo, gazelle and 
duiker. Company hunting is indulged in by them, 
but many hunt alone. Lions are usually neglected, 
and if one kills the cows the people are quite content 
to take the meat away and leave the marauder. 
Should, however, one slay a man or woman, they will 
not leave it. It was the custom, and presumably still 
is, to track the killer down and beat it to death, no 
matter how dangerous it may become. The last 


killed in this way was just before the outbreak of 

Another method used in killing lions is equally 
dangerous. A man clothes himself in a cow-skin and, 
after wounding the lion, lies down. The animal 
attacks him and falls a victim to others in ambush. It 
is said that a lion cannot tear through a properly 
prepared skin. 

At Tyutyilliga elephant-hunting was a speciality. 
To-day it would be extraordinary for elephants to 
roam around there, but the special weapons used are 
preserved ever ready. The weapon is a stout staff 
hardened in fire about five to six feet long. An iron 
head barbed and thickly smeared with strophanthus 
was tied loosely to the staff, being easily detachable. 
As soon as the herd was sighted the men climbed into 
the trees and the children and youths went out to meet 
the elephants. These they drove towards where their 
menfolk were concealed, and as the elephants passed the 
men harpooned them, the poison acting quickly and 
the loose stick bothering them to madness. Appar- 
ently this method was peculiar to that one small 

i Other weapons are clubs, sp'ears, and bows and 
arrows. The bows are made either of a small bamboo 
or a stick of hard wood made harder by fire and curved 
against a tree. The string is usually a strip of a very 
hard reed. The arrow-shafts have no notch and are 
very light and short. Quivers are made of hollowed- 
out wood bound together by leather and skin and cloth 
as fancy wills. They are not very large, containing 
between fifty to one hundred arrows apiece. Naturally 
the arrows bear a distinctive mark, either a cut on the 
shaft or more frequently a certain number of coloured 
feathers bound to the shaft by the grass which keeps 
the iron point fixed. 

The Builsa people^ hadf a special war-weapon of 
their own. It was shaped like a V, and to the shorter 


arm was fixed a long poison-covered and barbed point. 
Babatu's men were very afraid of this. The Builsa 
also specialised in slings. These they did not use in 
war, they told me, because they said quite seriously a 
sling stone would hurt anyone it hit ; but they used 
them against Babatu. Again, the Builsa are noticeable 
as having shields. No other tribes in the neighbour- 
hood have these. They are the full cow's skin cut into 
a circle, with a cord to pass over the neck and on either 
side cords through which to pass the arms. Opened, 
they give a man a butterfly appearance, and when shut 
cover him completely. 

Among the Builsa, too, a special arrow called pirn 
vorke Is used to avenge one's brother's death. It is not 
barbed, but shaped somewhat like a bradawl with its 
edges roughly dentated zigzag. On recovering the 
corpse of one's brother, this arrow is taken and inserted 
in the wound. After a time the arrow is withdrawn, 
coated anew with strophanthus and fixed in a shaft, 
but not tied in with grass. This latter is to ensure the 
point being left in the wound of its victim when the 
shaft is withdrawn. The arrow is taken secretly to 
the washing-place of the women, where it is buried so 
that blood from the girls may be washed over the place 
where it is concealed. It is later taken away and on 
the first opportunity used. 

The method of fighting is similar among them all. 
First the war-cry a shout of alarm that in itself 
conveys nothing to its hearers but to which all and 
sundry must listen and obey then the shout, " I am 
a man," or " My fathers call me," a short run, a feint, 
a crouching down and an arrow flicked away, and then 
a short run back. All the time the man is shouting 
abuse at his adversary and throwing up earth with his 
right hand like an angry bull with its foot. The 
Builsa opens his shield to shoot and, quickly closing, 
runs back. An arrow will pierce up to two hundred 
yards, but the shooting is poor. It is not necessary, 


however, to touch a vital spot, the poison will do its 
work from the smallest scratch. The war-cry raised, 
all other men of the section answer it and run to the 
scene of combat. Thus the fight becomes general and, 
unless a tindana can soon stop it, will spread through 
many communities allied to the disputants, and these, 
remembering old feuds and wrongs, vendettas un- 
repaid and unavenged murders, the flame of war 
spreads quicker than even the bush fires. Vendettas, 
however, generally remain as such, and do not tend to 
bring about a general war. 

After committing murder certain ceremonies must 
be performed. Until these are done the offender may 
not enter into his wife's hut nor hold any communica- 
tion with her nor with his children. Relatives and 
strangers alike will not speak to him but express their 
desires by signs. Food is brought him by a former 
murderer, and until the third day he must sleep in 
company with other murderers on the midden of his 
ancestors. A cow or sheep is then slain and one of the 
horns is encircled with a piece of skin from the neck of 
a fowl and skin of a cat. On this horn a little of the 
blood of the sacrifice is poured and the meal is divided 
among the former murderers. They then all go to the 
midden, and after cutting the man's hair in the form of 
a cross from his forehead to the neck and from ear to 
ear, they place on his head a mixture made from 
certain grasses gathered in the bush. They then eat 
together. A death by misadventure does not require 
this ceremony. A murderer can be known because he 
must wear on his neck a little piece of wood. 

j Peace-making is remarkable for a ceremony carried 
out by both parties when fighting has stopped and a 
payment of a cow, etc., agreed upon. They meet at 
their frontier and kill a cow, which is divided. The 
undigested food and intestines are then thrown on the 
ground and both parties stamp on them. That 
concludes peace and each returns to his compound 


crying out that " Peace is made ; the undigested has 
been stamped on." 

Fishing in company is an amusing sight. Nets, 
baskets, calabashes, and hands are used to catch the fish. 
Women gather from all parts to take their share in 
the proceedings. Individual fishing is practised by 
spearing and by netting. But an interesting method 
is used by the Nabdam, who pound a plant they call 
beem and throw the mash into water, which becomes 
ink-coloured and thereby the fish are stupefied. This 
is a practice common in Dagomba and Mamprussi, and 
eastward, so far as my knowledge goes, to the district 
of Sokode in Togoland. The plant is Trcphosia 

THE DAILY ROUND (continued) 

OF local industries there are many : pottery, 
iron-smelting, blacksmith, ivory-cutting (but 
not carving), charcoal-burning and fibre- 
spinning into string and ropes from which hats and bags 
are made, very similar to the expanding market-bags used 
in England. Charcoal-burners are generally those who 
live on the outskirts of the communities, and they 
certainly help in no small way in the continuous 
destruction of the bush. Iron-smelters are chiefly 
centred round Kayoro, Navarro-Pum, Mayoro, and 
Sirigu. Blacksmiths are everywhere. Their principal 
articles of manufacture are hoes, axes, arrows, spears, 
knives, and needles for thorn-extraction. The tools used 
consist of tongs the original of which are mythically said 
to have fallen from the sky, iron spikes somewhatlike glori- 
fied marling-spikes, and chisels. The string is woven 
usually by small boys and is certainly both strong and 
neat, some of it being very fine twine indeed. Boys 
likewise make the bags. I do not know who makes the 
hats for the tindanas, but the same string is used. 

The ivory-cutters use a double-handed and double- 
bladed saw of native workmanship, but they are only 
capable of making armlets, which they hollow out by 
chiselling after sawing off the tusk the desired width. 
These bangles and armlets fetch a high price. 

Weaving baskets from grass is quite a high art. All 
shapes and sizes are made and different colours used. 
The bed-mats are also of grass, seven-foot lengths being 


used, and as these taper naturally the resultant mat is 
a secant of a circle. Several of these straws of grass 
are dyed red and black, and so serve to mark it for the 

In addition there are new industries becoming 
freely adopted : indigo dyeing, cotton-weaving, leather 
dyeing, and leather-making. 

These are all imported trades from the passage 
of cattle-driving or kola-seeking men of the North, 
who come from as far as Timbuktu on their way to 
Ashanti. Through Navarro alone 89,000 men passed 
northward in 1917, carrying kola. 

The greatest centre of social life is at the markets. 
They were usually on every sixth day, with an inter- 
mediate third-day market known as the women's 
market. Practically every community had one. They 
were protected by powerful Earth-gods or other 
spirits, who prevented them from becoming the 
scenes of vendetta tragedies or from degenerating into 
pitched battles. Doninga was the most famous 
market and is very ancient. In the time of Babatu it 
was perforce abandoned, but to-day, restored, is 
probably the largest in both Districts. Cowries were, 
and still are, the medium for purchase, but for large 
sales resource is had to exchange. A young colt I saw 
exchanged for a donkey, a goat, a fowl, and sixpence. 
The people have strange ideas of trading with the 
white man. I was trying to encourage the manufacture 
of string, and was offering a price of is. 6d. per 
pound a truly magnificent return. Now every- 
one makes string ; it is an article of everyday use and 
necessity. It is usually spun from the fibre of various 
kinds of jhibiscus by small boys while tending the 
cattle, and by them made into net-bags for aU the 
world like those used at home. Now string is not sold 
in the markets, but the bags are. The price of these 
was 3d. or 6d., according to whether they were plain 
or dyed. Their weight was usually over two pounds. 


I said I wanted the string and was offered any amount 
as a gift. I said I wanted to buy. With much 
difficulty I found a youth willing to sell a hank which 
weighed only a quarter of a pound. He demanded a 
shilling, and the father explained leastways, he 
called it an explanation that they had never sold 
string before- the bags, yes, but what could the white 
man want string for ? This was not an isolated case. 
I had grown some ground-nuts and wished to value 
them. They were in baskets, and I offered one for 
sale. I was quoted six shillings. I then pointed out 
that a woman was selling for a halfpenny, or rather, as 
she called it, a copper being indifferent as to whether 
it was the whole or the half- quite a large calabashful 
as well as a small handful of " extras^." My customer 
admitted that, but said my basket had a lot in it. I 
measured it out for him to see, and it came to ten 
calabashes with about ten " extras." He still said six 
shillings was his price, and if I wanted to sell he would 
pay that. I gave it up and him the ground-nuts. 

Doninga was the scene of many stirring raids, which 
are still related, and the place is shown where the men 
of Bedema waylaid and slew twenty of the Doninga on 
their return from a raid on Kanjaga. That particular 
episode arose through a girl of Kanpga who dared 
a Doninga man to come. Girls and beer have much the 
same effect as women and wine. 

The principal Talansi market was at Bari. It is 
not far from the hills at Tong, and was many times 
raided by the hillmen. Those living among the rocks, 
I was told, become like their surroundings, hard and 
strong. It was the same with the Nankanni market at 
Namogu, which many times was visited by marauders 
from around Zokko. Kulmasa, the principal mart of 
the Nabdam, is close to the hills round Nangodi and 
proved an irresistible attraction for the highlanders. 
However, in spite of all this they survived and 
flourished. Markets were a necessity, for they 



collected food and other supplies which, by the very 
nature of the country and the climate, were sure to be 
badly needed somewhere. Even to-day people will 
ask permission for a market to be established tem- 
porarily, and give as the reason for their request that 
they are starving, and as soon as plenty has come 
again send in to say they no longer wish for one. In 
the regular markets, unless they happen to be in a part 
where scarcity exists, one does not ordinarily see much 
food ; there is a certain quantity, a greater supply of 
dainties such as hot cakes, a variety of articles for 
personal use, and plenty of beer. 

These markets not only served as the one and only 
means of intercommunication in the past, more or less 
safe, but they were certainly becoming more and more 
visited by foreign traders. They could not, of course, 
wander about singly or in small companies as they do 
to-day ; but they came in large caravans protected by 
as many as three hundred armed men. They came 
from the North, and dealt in slaves in the Salaga and 
Kintampo markets, bringing back kola. At Navarro 
one can have pointed out the trees where they were 
allowed to encamp and to which the local women 
brought them food. They were not above capturing a 
local man or two on their way. Stories are remem- 
bered about them, notably of a great fight when the 
Tongo hill-men crossed the Volta and ambushed a 
caravan near Dua. The Tongo people, of course, 
gained a great victory, capturing many donkeys. I have 
not heard the other version of the episode. There 
was no road for them through the Nankanni or Talansi 
country, but they apparently followed two routes, one 
through Navarro and the other through Doninga, 
passing what was then the thickly inhabited country 
round Nakon, Vari, and Bachawnsi, all of which is 
now but the habitat of antelopes and elephants. 

The houses of all the people are similar. They 
resemble forts or miniature castles, consisting of a 


[face p. 08.] 


[face />. 99.] 


series of round huts connected with walls and surround- 
ing a central yard in which the cows are kept. Sheep, 
goats, and fowls have usually huts for themselves, and 
there are also cylinder-shaped granaries for the dry 
season, beneath which often a special grass is placed to 
keep away white ants. Each group of huts is devoted 
to special purposes, every man of the compound having 
his own little settlement for his wife and children ; 
the unmarried and the elder children have theirs as 
well, and the richer men have for each of their wives 
a separate hut. All are connected with a passage 
running right round and about the compound, making 
it a veritable maze, but between each group of huts 
there are low walls with steps to aid one to climb. All 
are made of mud, and to make it watertight are smeared 
with a preparation of locust-bean pods and cow-dung. 
They are scrupulously clean, differing from the 
central yard. The roofs are flat and made of small 
sticks with mud in the interstices between the rafters, 
or in Nabdam and Talansi and many parts of Builsa 
grass-roofed. The flat-roofed huts have often a sky- 
light in the roof, which is covered with a broken pot in 
rainy weather. In the Kassena country the houses 
are painted red, white and black in unsymmetrical 
forms and remind one irresistibly of camouflaged 
objects. Everywhere mural decorations are indulged 
in, tortoises and crocodiles with cowries for eyes being 
the favourite. These are mouldings, but very often 
one will see paintings, made by fingers instead of 
brushes, portraying men and women and animals. 

The door into these huts is merely a small circular 
opening close to the ground, and immediately on enter- 
ing one is faced with an interior wall over which one 
sometimes climbs and round which at other times one 
has to walk. These inner walls are to prevent a foe 
from carrying out a vendetta murder at night. 

Each compound has about fifteen to twenty 
Inhabitants, but there are some very large ones which 



hold over one hundred and fifty, and are almost 
villages in themselves. There is also a hut reserved 
for meeting and conversation. In Builsa and Kassena 
country these are usually outside, but in Nankanni, 
Talansi, and Nabdam are part of the main building. 
The entrance is just wide enough for cows to enter, and 
is closed at night with heavy posts and bars. The 
inconvenience of having to go right round to the 
entrance is overcome by placing during the daytime 
small tree-trunks, in which steps are hewn, against 
the walls of the flat-roofed houses. 

Every compound has its main entrance facing west, 
and the groups of living huts form the opposite side of 
the circle. This is due to the rains, which beat in 
invariably from the east and are usually of hurricane 
force. The prevalent breeze is fortunately from the 
eastward too, or otherwise life would hardly be 
endurable, since the front yards not only are the cow- 
pens, but are also used as the nocturnal latrines. 

Nowadays these compounds tend to grow smaller 
owing to the security enjoyed under our rule, but many 
are still made of a considerable size. Stones are not 
now used in their construction, but in the country 
between the hills at Bachawnsi and the Sisili River 
there are remains of many compounds of which the 
walls were constructed of mud and stones roughly 
hewn more or less flat. / , y ) I 

All houses are sealed up at 'night. The main 
gateway is blocked with heavy sticks and old tree- 
stumps, the walls often having a thorn hedge fixed on 
top to prevent lions and hyenas from coming inside, 
and the ladders are all removed. In cold weather 
they remain thus shut till the sun is well up, when the 
household begins to bestir itself. First one sees women 
issue forth over the walls with water-pots, and in 
harvest-time the children proceed very early to the 
fields to act as scarecrows. i fThe c 'fmen (are ;more 
deliberate and when the air is nicely warm take down 


the gate and let out the cows and sheep. Usually a 
fairly wide road is kept leading to the compound for 
the cattle to pass ; this is fenced with poles, and 
even thorn bushes are planted to form a hedge to 
protect the crop round the compound from being 
eaten and trampled by the herd. In Builsa par- 
ticularly does one notice these early efforts at hedging, 
and occasionally a field of ground-nuts will be so 

The use of thorn protection is employed also to 
guard the guinea-fowls from cats. The birds when 
they grow up usually leave their owners' compound 
and roost in trees. These are then girdled with a 
skirt of thorns, whereby marauding felines are effec- 
tively warded off. It is frequently said that the black 
man is negligent of his animals. He may neglect what 
seems to us necessary, but he most certainly tends them 
to the best of his ability. Frequently one of the first 
of his matutinal duties is to go in search of white ants 
for them. If the country round has been cultivated 
the probability is that no nests will be handy. He 
therefore traps them. A likely spot is chosen. Sticks 
and other food are placed in a hole and moist cow-dung 
on top. All is then covered with a pot, and next day 
taken up and is usually found full of ants. Again, water- 
pots are specially made for fowls. These are the usual 
shape, but have holes all round sufficiently large for a 
fowl's neck. Every compound has them, and they are 
excellent places for mosquitoes. 

If planting or hoeing is not necessary the men do 
not usually remain idle. Trees are to be ringbarked 
for next year's bush-farms, string to be made and bags 
from the string, visits to the sorcerer or the black- 
smith, helmets to be adorned with cowries, quivers to 
be made gaudy with coloured cloth and leather and 
iguana skins ; even gunpowder to be made. During the 
war European-made black powder was hard to obtain, 
and they fell back on their own less powerful brand 


The Chief of Zuaragu had a fair quantity made and 
accidentally it was wetted. To test its efficiency he 
applied fire to the lot. The result to him was painful. 
Being an optimist, he considered his totem fetish was 
partial to him, since he was still alive. 

Most people rest in the middle of the day owing to 
the heat, and return to their fields or work about four 
o'clock. It is the evening, however, when the women 
are still preparing the meal that the men foregather 
to exchange yarns and the day's news. Then, too, the 
musicians come and flatter them, and often receive 
presents of extraordinary value. A troubadour, indeed, 
makes a good living ; a conceited man will give much 
to hear chanted flattery. Constables are easy prey, 
and if the minstrel has learned the name of his victim 
and weaves it into his song of praise he may expect 
even as much as a sheep. 

At this time young men visit their lady-loves, who 
neglect the preparation of food. And the prostitutes 
(for lack of a better word I so call them) get their 
worshippers to make their farms, etc., for them. These 
girls are generally fatherless and with no adult male 
relative sufficiently close to look after them, and have 
on their hands younger brothers or sisters or an aged 
mother. Rather than leave their home they will 
accept lovers, not promiscuously, but with a nice 
choice as to their working powers, and so maintain not 
only the house but also the home farms. Such women 
are iiwia (Nankanni), katogo (Kassena). This practice 
is not far removed from polyandry. 

And as night draws on the meal is ready. From 
every housetop one then hears the housewife calling to 
her spouse to come, to leave the conversation of his 
friends, and maybe, too, the flowing bowl. Imagina- 
tion need not be great to figure instead the club and 
public-house of England. 

Night, too, is for dances and funeral customs. The 
Kassena are specially fond of these, the Nankanni being 


still not quite used to his immunity from lurking foes. 

Before writing of the funeral customs a word about 
clothing may be of interest. It is usual for all men, 
no matter what their age, to work in the farms stark 
naked, and when their labour for the day is done 
they usually don only a skin, which is worn over the 
back and kept in place by a fore and hind leg sewn 
together. The advent of the white man is fast 
changing this. Triangular loin-cloths of Moshi tex- 
ture or small drawers are worn by the men, and on 
gala occasions the old ones wear long white coats with 
ample sleeves and the younger ones white sleeveless 
jumpers. Clothes dyed a dark blue are not un- 
common, and more and more one sees fully-dressed 
men with trousers and flowing robes. Tindanas, 
naturally, are disinclined to change their fashion. 

Most people, too, have hats. These are either of 
straw locally woven and of many and various shapes, or 
white cloth caps reminding one of the traditional 
headgear of cooks, or merely calabashes, sometimes 
plain and sometimes adorned with cowries or skin. 

Women wear leaves. Different trees supply the 
different modes. But whilst the men do not wear 
ornaments, save, perhaps, a necklace of stone beads or an 
armlet or two, the women affect many bangles of ivory 
and copper and earthenware. Their necklaces are of 
coloured beads, and the string which holds in place the 
leafy dress is often of most finely woven and coloured 
grass. In Nankanni long grass in black, white and red 
is worn instead of leaves, and is woven into various 
patterns at the top. Leather and dyed cloth are often 
found as well, but are only three to four inches wide. 
The main part of the dress is at the back. 

Lip and ear ornaments are occasionally affected. 
These are sometimes a ground neolith, sometimes a 
straw, and often a porcupine quill. Particularly in the 
hilly country is this form of decoration prevalent. 



THE funeral customs are more or less alike 
with all these people. The actual burial is 
very different. So far as I could learn, each 
family has its own particular practice. In Nankanni 
the heads of compounds and women who have done 
their duty well in leaving many offspring are honoured 
by being buried inside their compound, or, if they have 
recently built anew one, in the midden of their old one. 
B abies, being nothing, are merely placed in the scrap 
heap. Young people are buried in a common vault, 
which holds as a rule from thirty to forty corpses. I 
learned that one individual family is not necessarily 
buried all together in one vault, but I could not find 
out who was buried in what vault. The buriers own 
the graves and know, but they are disinclined to talk 
about dead people, and mostly agree with what one 
says or refer one to an older man. For payment they 
usually receive a fowl and the clothes the corpse is 
wearing. The bed-mat or stretcher on which the 
body is carried to the vault is burnt there. Women 
are laid apart from the men and face west, whilst men 
face the dawn, because all evil comes from women, and 
if they see the sunrise they would spoil the day. This 
philosophical truth seems to have been grasped by 
savage man in every clime. 

The shape of these vaults is like a mushroom 
upside down and, like every other building, is 
circular. The walls are supported by stones and the 
whole is covered with large stone slabs and usually 
a pot. One can imagine, but not describe, the state 


these vaults were in during the epidemic of influenza 
early in 1919. Close on 10,000 deaths were reported 
to me to be exact, 9,761 and that number was 
incomplete. Babies were not counted, and during 
the last three weeks or so of the sickness no record was 
taken. To this must be added also the natural 
disinclination of primitive men to count their numbers, 
especially their dead. I n I .1 

| So terrible was the visitation that funeral customs 
were suspended, people remained passively in their 
houses and only women issued forth to fetch water. 
The quiet in the countryside was nerve-trying. 
Sorcerers, tindanas, and Chiefs alike enjoined silence ; 
weeping was unheard ; and the dead were frequently 
buried where they fell. Their burial-places were 
remembered, and even as I write, a year later, the 
funeral customs are being observed, earth from the burial- 
place being treated as the corpse itself. Convinced, 
too, that death was certain, everyone grew regardless 
of the future and emptied their granaries, so that had 
it not been for a providential fall of rain in May, 
causing an early and record first harvest, famine would 
have ensued. 

It is a common practice to bring earth from a man's 
burial-place if he died far away from his house, or, 
better, to bring a piece of his clothes. Thus the 
returning spirit will find he has not been neglected by 
his family, and will therefore be disinclined to trouble 
them with sickness or misfortune. The following is an 
account of death and burial among the Kassena. As 
soon as a man is dangerously ill and his death expected, 
no male may enter his hut. His women-folk help him 
till the last. Turn and turn about, they ease his head 
by resting it in their laps, and even when he is dead 
they still so hold him. But when the corpse grows 
cold one of the women goes out of the compound over 
the wall, not by the main entrance, and runs to tell a 
neighbour of the ill news. She returns as secretly as 


she went. The neighbour then informs the next 
people and the parents of the deceased, who hasten to 
the house. This secretiveness is to prevent suicide. 
In a previous chapter I related an incident at Zokko 
showing how grief frequently drives near relatives to 
such drastic measures. Many, many are such cases, 
but, curiously enough, during the influenza epidemic, 
none were reported. Death was too universal and 
grief so great that men and women were dazed and 
helpless in its visitation. 

As soon as people have reached the house they 
watch the members of the household for the same 
reason and hide all arrows, knives, etc., whilst, if need 
be, women watch the widow. Silence is maintained, 
and everyone sits around the house meditating pre- 
sumably over death or their own particular loss in the 
deceased. It is not difficult thus to reach a proper 
mood of sorrow, and tears and grief are never far distant 
after such reflections. 

When the elders of the community arrive they sit 
in the shelter and after due deliberation decide on the 
hour when the grief will be expressed ; and when that 
time comes for a half -hour or more nothing but wailing 
and crying is to be heard. From time to time a man 
rises from the sitting weepers and enters the yard of 
the hut. He is usually supported by two women. 
There, with cries and lamentation, he gives vent to 
his sorrow at the loss of his friend, and having walked 
around the yard he returns to his seat and ceases his 

Another and another follow his example, and when 
all are done songs are begun in honour of the departed. 
The men form into two lines ; at their head are two 
singers. Slowly they move around the house, the 
singers leading in the chant whilst the rest respond in 
chorus in a by no means inharmonious song. 

)The following are some specimens of these funeral 
psalms : 



Sesang kane a nu sine o ketem o ma ti. 

Chorus : Dyore yi vdda s*en dyong zonlanga s'endyong 

tyana zanbililongo . 

A pare garo a bolo sine of age lam dure. 
Chorus : A nu ye ve tyiru n'yage ne o' Leseng kane a 

nu sine o zang o zo bone. 


My mother, O woman beautiful as a mare, is dead ; she 

is no more than a corpse. 
Come back, come back, go not hence ; you will have 

fine stones, bracelets, and necklaces. 
My friend, clothed as a chief, brings you all fine things. 
O, my mother, beautiful as a mare, is no more. She 

jhas descended into the tomb. 


Turn dyeg 7 dyelia logo won i na. A ba'' wo a nu o wa wa 

wa a nu o a bo* a nu o\ 
Nabin bebaro tern na wo a sane ne turn wo wo diga zo. 


Death worries and troubles the sight. Let us greet it. 

,0, my mother, mother mine ! 

Evil ones have entered your hut. Death comes from 

O, my mother, mother mine ! 


O dene na dom voro tigane ba doge nane ba pi, ox dene na 
sang yala tanga Badonia ye dyene, o kwo den 1 or a o 
dyong ngwam nonabane. 

Wolo ya yere na. Kawa baro sakaro zo tiga deban den 
nona ba dye wale wale. 



Once he was strong with his hoe in the farm. 
And his children led back his cows in number. 
The people of Badonia feared to come when he took 
ihis arrows and his bow. 

Meanwhile the grave-diggers (baiya, Nankanni, 
bays, Kassena, vaiasi, Builsa) of the community have 
arrived, and are shown by the elders where the grave 
should be dug. Old men are buried in the courtyard 
of their house (nabo), but if the soil is too damp a piece 
of high ground near the house is selected. Women 
are buried in the little yard in front of their huts 
(konkolo). Children outside near the house and young 
men in the common vault. 

Four or five of the youngest baye dig the hole |in 
turns. They use their little axes not their hoes 
and they remove the earth with their hands and a 
calabash. The opening is round, about eighteen 
inches in diameter, but at the depth of about a foot it 
increases in size and becomes semicircular, running 
north and south and reaching a depth of about four 

Sometimes when the labour is finished the grave- 
diggers see the soul of a sick friend in the grave. They 
try to drive it away, throwing some straws from a 
sleeping-mat inside and blowing thereon smoke from 
their pipes, spitting and throwing mud into the tomb. 
Should the sick friend die soon after, they say they were 
unable to drive the soul out of the grave. 

\ As soon as their task is over the elders are informed. 
The oldest of them then orders one of the deceased's 
relatives to give a fowl to the son of the tigatu, who 
kills it by beating it on the ground, saying, " Take 
this with you." Often a sheep is killed instead, which 
is done by hitting it on the head and breast with a club. 
After the sacrifice the chief grave-digger takes the best 
part of the victim and the rest is divided among the 


others. In addition, a fowl or sheep is given in sex 
and value according to the dead one ; and these are 
killed on the spot in the usual way, i.e., by cutting 
their throats, and then prepared for eating. The 
elders are frequently invited to participate with the 
diggers in the repast. Again, when the burial is over 
they are further rewarded, but this time none but the 
baye may eat of the meat. 

When the moment for actual burial arrives the 
corpse is covered with a sleeping-mat, and two of the 
baye, stark naked, carry it on their left shoulders and 
head first. One climbs down into the grave and 
another holds a mat at the opening so as to prevent 
anyone from seeing the corpse being lowered into the 
earth. As a matter of fact, no one ever goes near the 
open tomb. Then, feet first, the dead man is handed 
down, being received by the one inside. He places it 
on its side, facing east or west according to whether it 
is a man or woman, draws up its legs and places one 
arm under its head. In Nankanni and Talansi the 
corpse is frequently buried straight out without 
bending its legs. 

A young man is buried quite naked ; a young 
married man in a loin-cloth, and an old man in a dark 
blue gown, a white cap, and dark blue native cloth. 
Women are buried naked. 

An earthen pot is then taken a little larger than 
the opening of the tomb and is placed on top. Mud 
is then stuck over the pot and certain marks made to 
prevent the tomb's violation. The people then 

, Next day the baye return, remove the covering pot 
and make certain that nothing has been disturbed. It 
is then replaced and covered with a deep layer 'of 

On the third day if it was a man, on the fourth if 
a woman, the neighbours send for a sorcerer. On his 
arrival the women sit on one side, the men on another, 


and he who fetched the sorcerer squats in front of him ; 
and in this case the consultation is made aloud. The 
sorcerer is asked what is the reason for the death and 
what the dead man wishes to eat. He replies by 
touching with his wand one of the various objects set 
in front of him out of his magic bag. After the 
consultation he is given a fowl, millet, and some beer ; 
but he does not drink the latter, returning it to the 
elders, who dispose of it. 

Such is the burial itself and the ceremonies 
observed at the time. Later, often when many 
months have passed, two funeral customs take place if 
the deceased was an important personage, one if one 
of ordinary worth. These are lare (Kassena ; kiema 
Nankanni) and lua (Kassena; tigri Nankanni). 
Lare is for the former, lua in all cases except for babies, 
who do not count. 

Lare usually lasts three days. People from all 
parts attend, and dancing, singing, and music are the 
order of the day. Everyone is dressed in their best- 
fine clothes and skins, decorated helmets and quivers, 
well oiled and washed, eyes painted with antimony 
in short, in a manner to show their wealth and strength 
and beauty. Speeches are made in honour of the 
departed, speeches of which the number is c'hecked 
merely by the financial position of those desirous to 
speak, for every orator must give at least a fowl, which 
the musicians receive. Dancing lasts all day and often 
all night. Young men play at war, attacking neigh- 
bouring compounds, whose inhabitants come out and 
join in the festivities. 

The ceremony of lua is obligatory. As soon as it 
has been decided to hold this custom, those who 
should organise it gather together and arrange what 
to do, recall what was omitted at the burial, or decide 
to add to what was then done. Three or four days 
after this gathering a ceremony called zore yibele 
takes place. 'Plenty of people come as a banquet 



[face p. 1 10.] 



[face p. III.] 


follows. All the kadikzva, i.e., women who have 
parents in the community of the deceased, arrive and 
pour a little shea-butter over the grave and spread it 
with their hands over the mound which marks the 
entrance. After that, the banquet. 

Among the Nankanni at this time there takes place 
a peculiar custom known as dolongo, and the day for the 
celebration is known as kure, an appellation which 
includes both tigri and dolongo. When the offerings of 
food are brought to the deceased and it has been 
learned from the sorcerer that the gifts are acceptable, 
the women-folk of the deceased, i.e., his near kinsfolk, 
and the sons gather together. The elders then proceed 
to tie them up. There are two methods : one is 
to place a rope round the neck and tie with it the hands 
behind the back, the other is to tie the thumbs and 
wrists together in front. After a short dance the 
young people return to their homes and bring back 
fowls, guinea-fowls, or sheep. These are killed and 
the bonds are loosened. 

M. Tauxier thinks this custom is a relic of canni- 
balism and that the presents redeem the victims. 
That is an explanation which seems likely to be true. 
The Nankanni are not disgusted when one talks of 
eating human beings, as the bush Ashanti is ; and, 
further, they say that their fathers certainly used to 
eat men. I think, too, the practice of teeth-filing is 
also an indication of this custom. 

In a few days the lua proper takes place. All the 
relatives of the deceased and the members of his or her 
community attend. Beer is brewed in large quantities, 
and, when that is ready, food of all sorts prepared. 
Branches of a tree called kase are then fetched. (This 
is the tree usually used for firewood.) On the day in 
question, when all are assembled, the departed's bow 
and arrows and quiver are taken. The widow, who has 
had no sexual intercourse since her husband's death, 
holds the bow, which a grave-digger cuts in three 


pieces with his axe. All are then rolled into a bed-mat. 
In the case of a woman her calabash, basket, and a pot 
full of holes like a sieve are treated in the same way. 
A kadikwa then takes a few straws and sets fire to 
them. She enters the deceased's hut accompanied by 
a grave-digger bearing the mat with its contents. 
Once inside, the latter takes some grain and other food 
and places it in the mat. They then both come out, 
the woman first, and enter the main courtyard if the 
deceased was the house-owner, go outside the com- 
pound if another man, if a woman on to the path 
which leads to the house of her parents. With the 
branches of the kase a fire is then made and the quiver, 
etc., thrown thereon. To this tobacco and salt are 
added. A fowl, a sheep, and a dog are then sacrificed. 
The dead one's walking-stick is used to poke the fire ; 
and lastly, when all is burnt and the food and beer 
distributed, the people go home. The deceased is 
finished with ; the man's life is properly ended, and 
he can and should from now on dwell in the land of the 
departed and return no more from tyiru dyega. 



THERE are in the Gold Coast and its de- 
pendencies, Ashanti, and the Northern 
Territories two great languages : Twi, 
which is spoken in its many dialects in Fanti, Ashanti, 
Gonja, Bole, Wa, and Chakosi, and a language which in 
its simplest form is spoken by the Moshi. In the 
Northern Territories this latter language covers all 
Dagomba, Mamprussi, Kusasi, Nabdam, Talansi, 
Nankanni, Builsa, Dagati and Lobi, and has been set 
to writing in its Moshi form by two or three French 
authors, notably Mons. F. Froger (1910), and Mons. F. 
Dubois and Bluzet, and latterly by Mr. Rattray, 
M.B.E., of the Gold Coast Civil Service. In its 
Dagomba dialect a German author, Herr H. Fisch, 
in 1912 published a work, and in 1917 Mr. J. S. 
Okraku contributed a grammar and vocabulary of the 
Tamale variation of the same tongue. 

In the two Districts of Navarro and Zuaragu one 
finds four distinct dialects and a language which is 
evidently fast disappearing. It is this last that I now 
endeavour to record- the language of Kassena, called 
by them Awuna. The Nankanni resembles closely the 
Moshi ; Nabdam and Talansi to Mamprussi ; Builsa 
to Dagomba. The Kassena language I believe to be 
of the same family group, but somewhat distantly 
related thereto. 

Undoubtedly the invasions from east and west 


which established theMoshi, Mamprussi, and Dagomba 
kingdoms on the one hand, and the Gonja and Wala 
kingdoms on the other, have influenced these dialects 
to a great extent, and, so far as one can learn, the 
Kassena language is spoken by the remnant of an 
invading host which came from the west. It is spoken 
in British territory only in Pinda, Paga, Kayoro, and 
parts of Navarro, Tyana, Nakon, Mayoro, and 
Tyutyilliga. Navarro and Mayoro are more than half 
Nankanni ; the other three are mixed with Builsa. 
Probably less than 15,000 British subjects understand 
Awuna, which tends to the westward to become 
dialects spoken by the Fra and Issala people. 

The survival of this language is due to the custom 
of the people leaving young children in their mother's 
care. They thus acquire in childhood the tongue of 
the mother, and she is either unrelated to her husband 
or very remotely so. The custom of wife-capture 
introduced a new dialect into the household, and her 
children perpetuated their mother's tongue with the 
modifications inevitable from their surroundings. 

The difficulties of writing down a hitherto un- 
written language are immense. This is no im- 
modesty on my part. The following vocabulary is 
one given me entirely by the Rev. White Fathers 
established at Navarro, missionaries who live among the 
people and who have perforce to speak the language 
every day and all day ; all that I have done is to 
translate their work from French into English. As for 
the grammar, I have used their notes and amplified 
them with the help of a Kassena youth named Bali 
Cyprian who, rescued from slavery in his childhood 
by the French, has lived his life with the Fathers and 
been highly educated by them so that he can read and 
write and do all the work expected from a clerk in 
Government service. Of Kassena blood, he has lived 
most of his life in Kassena country, and I have but set 
a course along which he has steered me. 


I record this Kassena language not with a view of 
anyone ever troubling to learn to speak it, since it is a 
tongue of very small importance, but in an endeavour 
to perpetuate a language which our presence must in 
time cause to disappear. Not only do the Nankanni 
tend more and more to intermarry with the Kassena, 
but they are daily invading Kassena country in the 
markets, in settlement and in manual labour on the 
farms. Further, every year the young men from the 
north pass through the country of the Kassena in 
increasing numbers in search of money. True, they 
are merely passers-on, returning soon to their home- 
land ; but they are all Moshi speakers, and now that 
the country is peaceful they are no longer under the 
necessity of keeping to the main trade route, but pass 
along any of the roads from the frontier. Their 
numbers cannot be reckoned. They are free to 
register at Navarro or not, and those that do not take 
the main road remain uncounted. In 1917, 89,000 
reported themselves at Navarro southward-bound. 
Since they all returned to their homeland, that alone 
gives a figure of 180,000 Moshi speakers passing 
through Kassena in less than twelve months. Moshi is 
the lingua franca of the Northern Territories, and the 
Kassena women perforce have to learn it for its use in 
the markets. 

But the main difficulty in recording the language of 
another race is the vicious circle in which one finds 
oneself, viz., to learn a knguage one must learn its 
users' customs, and to know the customs one must 
know the language. 

Many words in this vocabulary will be found to 
differ from those in use in Kayoro or other villages. 
Probably each compound has more or less its own 
dialect, and when, intercommunication being difficult 
and dangerous, communities kept to themselves, the 
tendency was for dialects to increase. Not only the 
advent of strange and foreign women in the household 


aided in this, but the ^malformation of the tongue or 
teeth or mouth, or even the practice of teeth-filing, 
helped in this process of change. 

Like all primitive languages, the Kassena or 
Awuna is rich in concrete nouns. Insects, weeds, 
trees, and so on all have their names ; the differently- 
shaped arrows have theirs. But in abstract nouns the 
dearth is very great, for the simple reason that abstract 
thoughts do not exist. No one here talks of patriot- 
ism, gratitude, love. Everyone is too materialistic. 

And as in country districts at home wild animals 
and birds often have names differing in each locality, 
so it is here. It may be of interest to give the following 
list of the bigger game : 



Builsa Kassena 



Tao <Tu 



Eweggeni Nyengo 



Wobbia Gwero 



Gworfnab Gctnao 



Kap Kong 



Sebiga Siga 






Nonbirigu Lanibero 



Tub Wura 



Nong Panon 



Kungu Kungu 




Nenanga Fera 



Walagh Wunga 



Isagb Togo 

Bush-pig (all 


Diaw leri 


There Is, however, one to me very interesting 
fact to record. Kassena and Builsa alike can talk by 
means of whistling. This is a development far 
beyond the much-talked-of Ashanti drumming. For, 
after all, that drumming is not really so very wonderful . 
Not everyone can understand the words of the drum, 
not everyone can read its message. Moreover, the 
drums talk a recognised message only. True, it is 
generally verbiose, but still, it is not possible for a 
drummer to tell his friend in the next village to bring 
him his cloth. That is a matter so trivial and of a 
nature so capable of manifold alterations that it 
cannot be expressed by drumming. War and mis- 
fortune yes. Such messages are limited in number 
and can be learnt, just as a soldier knows the bugle 
calls or a civilian hears " God Save the King " when 
someone hums the tune. Church bells are often said 
to say, " Come and pray " ; the yellowhammer cries 
" A little bit of bread and no cheese." Such are 
commonly accepted, and we can all recognise the 
words. The Ashanti drummer is like that. He reads 
a drum message which he has learned and is thus 
enabled to read therein a meaning. But these people 
convey trivial messages by whistling, such as " Come " ; 
" I am going to the market " ; " Bring me my pipe " ; 
" There are plenty of antelopes " ; "I have lost my 
white cow " ; " Have you seen my donkey ? " ; " The 
sheep are in your guinea-corn." The longest message 
I heard was while out hunting. We had passed a man 
in his millet field and he had told us no " meat "had 
been seen. We left him on his bird-platform and 
went on, and were about eight hundred yards away 
from him when he whistled, and my hunter read this 
message : " There are plenty of big meat in front of 
you on the hill to the left far away." The hunter 
whistled him to repeat, and he did so, and then whistled 
for him to come and show us, which he did. 

And this whistling is done by pipe as well as by 


mouth, nor is it at all shrill, but even close at hand 
appears soft and subdued. But the message arrives 
quite clear and distinct. 

To pronounce properly the following words it is 
necessary to be taught by a native of the country ; 
and I have made no attempt to show the varying 
intonation by the use of diacritical marks. 

The vowels are to be pronounced as in Italian : 
a as a in father 
e as a in fate 
i as ee in need 
o as ow in flow 
u as oo in rood 

Shortening of vowels is marked by reduplication of 
the subsequent consonant. When two or more vowels 
are together they are pronounced separately, thereby 
ai tends to become i in mine 
ei ey in they 
ao ,, ow in bow 

In a few words, such as ntaw^ bataw, etc., aw is to be 
pronounced as in law. But this sound aw is almost an 
0, but very short, being somewhere between the o 
of not and the aw of law. 

Consonants are as in English g always being hard . 
gh is a guttural 

ky\ are d, &, t mollified 

Relationship is both through blood and marriage 
and is marked by generations. Thus a man's relatives 
are : 











or male of 








The terms are used for relatives on either side, both 
through the mother and father, and when one is 
married one automatically acquires as relatives of the 
same designation all one's wife's relations of senior and 
equal rank to her. Thus a man's ba may be either his 
own proper father, his father's brother or biale, his 
mother's brother or biale, or his wife's father, or her 
uncle or any ba she might have. Not necessarily will 
a ba be older than one's self. With polygamy the 
opposite frequently occurs and a multitude of bas are 
created. Those on the man's own side as distinct 
from the contributions which his wife brought him 
make up the section or community as a rule, and their 
senior yaba is usually their headman. The sons of a 
ba become one's biale, their grandsons' bia to whom one 
is a ba, and the gieat grandchildren are all yanga. 
Particular terms are used when one wishes to be more 
explicit, but are not usual. 

The corresponding terms for the female relatives 
are the same, excepting ma replaces ba and nu kwo. 


FORMATION OF FEMININE. Where it is desired to 
draw a distinction between the sexes, the feminine is 
denoted by the word kane : 

a child bu a girl busankane 

a horse sisanga a mare msankane 

a bull nabia a cow ? na kane 

(nago or nao being a head of cattle) 
a cock tye-bia a hen tye-kane 

(tyoro being a fowl of both sexes). 
But in the event of the female having already produced 
offspring the word nia is used : 

Sesannia, nania, tyenia. 
i .- Nouns ending in -ro -no change the -ro -no into 
-ra, -na, and those in -on add -na : 


faro a man who does good to others ; pl.fara 

varo an animal pi., vara 

nono a man pi., nona 

pipino a trader pi., pipina 

kadon a polygamous wife pi., kadonna 

badon] a friend pi., badonna 

2. Nouns ending in -la and -a change the -la, -a 
into -le -e : | 

bala male pi., bale 

kala pot pi., kale 

kaba slave pi., kabe 

kapa snake pi., kape 

bay a grave-digger pi., baye 

3. Nouns ending in -*, -i change the -<?, -i into 
-# : 

kanzue caterpillar pi., kanzua 
bisili grass roof pi., bisila 
bodori a hoe pi., bodora 

4. Nouns ending in -ngo and -go change the 
-ngo and -go into -wo and -r0 : 

kukwango a cloud pi., kukwano 
nieniego a colour pi., nieniero 
bongo a goat pi., bono 

There are a number of nouns which form their 
plural Iby 'cutting off the last syllable : 

tiga earth (a meaning which would be ren- 
dered by town, if towns existed) ; pi., ti 
diga hut pi., di 

There are a large number of irregular plurals : 

banga bangle pi., be 

sisanga horse 1 ' p\. 9 : sise 

wunga gazelle pi., W 

benga rafter pi., be 


From the above it would seem that, when a noun ends 
in -nga> the 'last two syllables are changed into -e. 

pia sheep pi., peni 

kua bone pi., kui 

kukura dog pi., kukuri 

nago cow pi., nani 

bu child pi., bia 

nu mother pl.,nina 

zonga calabash pi., zui 

basankwyan snake pi., basankwi 

bonnaga donkey pi., bonne 


Adjectives follow the noun they qualify and have 
frequently the effect 'of eliding the last syllable of that 
noun : 

sesangzono a black horse 

diga-nu pongo a white mouse (i.e., mother of the 

norf dedaro a tall man [house) 

kukur' balaivro a bad dog 

When two or more adjectives are used to qualify 
the same noun the one with the shorter number of 
syllables is usually placed first, e.g., a large bad dog, 
kukur^faro balawro. which becomes kukur' far' balawro. 

Numerals are always the last. 

Adjectives are to be found in plural forms which 
follow the rules of the nouns ; but exceptions are 
numerous : 

we napono white gazelles 

zuifara large calabashes 

zuifarafuga ten large calabashes 

But zui kumunu, large calabashes ; nona dedaro, tall 




aw? sesanga my horse 

mo sesanga your horse 

o peni his sheep 

deban bonne our donkeys 

abban kukuri your dogs 

ba nani their cows 

waw 9 sesanga ? whose horse ? 

N.B. Which cow ? Which horse ? Nago daw ? 
Sesang 9 kaw ? making a plural : Nan 9 daw ? Sese saw ? 

The syllable mo is used frequently after daw, kaw, 
etc. Thus : Mo nan 9 daw mo ? Which of your cows ? 
Mo nan 9 daw mo dye? Which cows have you lost? 
Both is translated by " all two." 

Both cows : nan 9 dele mama. 
Both horses : sese sele mama 


























fuga bale 






finna ' 

50 | 



Adj ectival 















nobogo tu 
fuga tu 




bi yele 
bi yennu 
bi yerdon 


NUMERALS (continued). 

Cardinals Ordinah Adjectival 

60 fiserdon 1,000 moro 

70 fiserpe 2,000 mo'telloe 

80 Jinn ana 5 ,000 mo'tenu 

90 ^w nobogo 6,000 mo'terdon 

myriads, millions, etc., wor0 TTzoro. 

The Kassena, when counting, does not use twelve 
and twenty-five or other intermediate number? 
between the tens, but having set aside one ten, com- 
mences over again and then adds up his tens, and so on. 
It will be noticed that the consonant s is the adjectival 
form, but b is used when the noun terminates in a and 
d for those that end in i : 

Give me six sheep pa ni pe serdon \ 

Give me six horses pa ni sise serdon 

Give me six cows 'pa ni nan* derdon \ 

Give me six fowls ' ' I pa ni tyerf derdon 

Give me six hoes pa ni bodora bardon 

This, again, is noticed in numbers such as fifteen, 
twenty-seven, etc. : I 

Fifteen cows ^ nan' fuga denu 
jTwenty-five sheep pe 9 finle senu 
Thirty-five hoes bodora finto banu 
Moreover, this form is still observed when the number 
is given without its noun. In answer to the question, 
" How many cows 1 " it would be fuga derpe (seven- 
teen), or for sheep, fuga serpe. 

^Fractions are represented by a half, tyityoro, and for 
smaller 'portions one uses tyityerega, a small piece. 


once bedi three times kuni be taw 

twice kuni bele ten times kuni fuga 
A neia o kuni bele, " I have seen him twice," but 
the kuni is 'often 'understood. 



In the conjugation of verbs it would seem that 
the true form is a past form and on it are Abased the 
Present and Future tenses : 

gane conveying the meaning of cutting 

figese snuffing 

fire slapping 

duga planting 

saga dancing 

diri running 

leni singing 

The Present tense is formed by the auxiliary 
a ora, which will be followed by 'the repetition of the 
pronoun and 'the verb form changed by attraction into 
an a termination': 

gane makes a or a a gana 
fire a or a a fir a 
leni a or a a lena 
duga \ f l a or a ] a dua 
In its complete tform'fthe -tensers as follows : 

Singular Plural 

a ora a lena de or a de lena 

mo ora rflena abban ora a lena 

o ora o lena ba ora ba lena 

N.B. The Second Person Plural, however, is 
usually contracted into a' ora a lena. 

The Future Simple is formed by the use of the 
word o, which has a future signification, and no 
repetition of the pronoun is necessary : 

a o leni^ mo o leni, o o leni, de o leni, a o leni, ba 

o leni. 

The Imperfect is formed by the use of the word ya, 
which 'conveys a 'meaning of the past and is used in 
conjunction 'with Ithe 'auxiliary : 

a ya or a\ a \lena, 


(The Past, both Perfect and Aorist, is the verb 
form with the pronoun only : 

a leni de leni \ 

mo L'n : abb an leni 

o lent ba leni 

The Future Perfect and Pluperfect are formed by 
using in conjunction with the verb form the two words 
o and ya, which convey the Future and Past senses : 

a ya o leni 
a ya leni 

Irregular verbs are not uncommon : 

Ex. : dyega, to possess 
Present a dyega 

Future a o na or a o ta dyega 

Past a ya dyega 

Fut. Perfect \a ya o na or a ya o ta dyega 
Pluperfect a den dyega (den meaning " long 


Ex. : dia to eat and kea to make. 

Present a di or a ora a di a ke 

Future . I a o di a o ke 

Imperfect \a ya ora a di a ya ora a ke 

Past \a dia a kea 

Fut. Perfect (a ya o di a ya o ke 

Pluperfect a ya dia a ya kea 

Verb : yi (to be ; copulative) 
a yi 
a o ta yi 

Past not far off a ya yi 
Past far off , ; a den yi 

a den ya o ta yi 

(Verb : ora (to be, to exist) 

Present a ora 

Future ^a ta ora 

Past a den ora or a ya ora 


The negative form of the verb requires the word ba t 
but in the Past tenses this ia replaced by o. A con- 
fusion, indeed, with the Future S.mple in its positive 
form, but in practice the sen^e of the conversation, 
negative gestures and most frequently the word 0-0-0, 
meaning no, as introduction to the sentence, ( eliminates 

Present a ba lena 

Future a ba leni 

Imperfect a ya ba lena 

Past a o leni 

Pluperfect a$a\o lent 

(This same conversational knowledge prevent, a 
misunderstanding in a ba di, the Present and Future of 
the negative form of di. 

,The Interrogative is formed by the word na placed 
at the end of the sentence, and is equivalent to 
or . . . ? 

Thus it is impossible to say " Have you any 
children ? " One must "say, " You have children, 
eh ? " 

mo bina^na ? are you coming ? 
mo gu 0, na ? did you kill him ? 

The Imperative is the verb form itself : 

leni sing 
sa i j dance 

)The Third Person is formed by the Uoe of the 
auxiliary yage : 

yage o s'o sa (lit., let him that he dance) 
yage ba se ba sa, let them dance 

A Gerundive is formed by the prefix na, thus : 

I Jieard you singing a nia mmo na lena 

I saw you eating a neia mmo na di 

I saw you steal a neia mmo na ngwana 


But the Verbal Noun is more or less regularly formed : 

ganem ^cutting 

Jigsem snuff-taking 

firem flapping 

du'm [planting 
\du'm ye baro te tonga to plant is man's work 

lenga to sing 

se danong 

dirim running 

Excepting in such words as are so commonly used, as 
" to sing," etc. : 

|a soe lenga f I like singing 
mo soe ngweni You like stealing 


jl 'amo t with a verb^ a 

You irimo mo 

He omo o 

We deban de 

|You abban abban, a 

They banto ba 

[There is no change for the Accusative save that the 
form ba is usually taken for the Third Person Plural : 

mo neia ba You saw them. 

mo neia amo, na ? Did you see me ? 

For emphasis tete follows the pronoun : 

amo lete 

mo neia amo tele, na ? 

The same word has a reflexive sense : 

a soe a tete I love myself 
o gone o tete He cut himself 

(N.B. Gane is only for grass and hair, gone is for more 
serious work.) 



The man who came non wolo na tua 

The men who came nona balo na tua 

The horse which came sisang' kalo na tua 

The horses which came sise solo na tua 

The crocodile which came nyengo dolo na tua 

The crocodiles which came nyeno dolo na ua 

The cow which came nago kolo na tua 

(The cows which came nan* dolo na tua 

The bush pig which came teri kalo na tua 

The bush pigs which came tera solo na tua 

There would seem to be no rule as to whether one 
can use kalo or kolo, the variation between dolo, solo, and 
kalo being similar to that in the numeral adjectives. 

Wolo and balo (singular and plural) are for human 
beings, but for busankane, a girl, one uses kalo and 

The Accusative form is as the Nominative. 

N.B. The locution na invariably is next to the 
verb and is used in both direct and indirect comple- 

non 9 wolo tyem a na neia, the man whose arrow I 

sisan 9 kalo nabili a na goni, the horse of which I 

cut the tail 
sio kalo a name a goni sisanga nabili, the knife with 

which I cut the horse's tail (lit., the knife which 

I used to cut . . .) 


Mine a nyem 

Yours mo nyem 

His o nyem 

Ours deban nyem 

Yours abban nyem 

Theirs banto nyem 


Ex., sisan kantaw ye a nyem, This horse is mine ; 
but it is usual to say, sisan 9 kantaw yi a mo sisanga, This 
horse is my horse. 

Where ? yene ? 

no songo wo yene ? Where is your house ? 
How ? teta ? 

mo tu teta mo ? How did you 'come ? 
Why? begwane?\ 

be ngwane mo ngwoga ? Why did you steal ? 

Who ? wawmo ? pi., bramo ? 

Who comes ? wawmotyine*? 

What ? be mo ? 

What do you say ? mo ] wo \be \mo ? 


This kantaw 

These sent aw 

Here, again, the variations between dentaw, kantaw, and 
sentaw are to be found in the desire for euphony : 

sisan 9 kantaw sise sentaw 

nago kantaw nan* dentaw 

Apparently no distinction is made between " this " 
and " that." Again, however, one notices the varia- 
tion for human being, non 9 ontaw, this man, etc., with 
the exception busan 9 kane kantaw. 


These, as one would expect, are either expressed in 
the verb or by the use of subordinate clauses : 
I came with my mother a de de a 9 nu a ba 
With my brother I killed him amo de a 9 nyani gu o 
I killed him with my knife a me a 9 sio a gu o 
(lit., I used my knife I killed him) 



There is to be noted a locative word ni used with 
various nouns : 

in woni 

in my house a diga 'ni 

in the stomach puga 'ni 

under kuruni 

under the baobab tio kuruni 

behind kogane 

I live behind the rocks a or a pio koga'ne 


and de 

neither nor a one mo na a ni mo 

I neither saw you nor heard you 
either or mo dyega bongo na mo ba dyega 

Either you have the goat or not 
that a tagba de mo we a ya tera kodyera 

I tell you that I was not there 
because a ye se a ya or a kodyera \ 

I know because I was there 


aban, you, your 
adyangwc, such a one 
amo, me, my, mine, I 
apasa, pardon (pa apasa, 

to forgive ; lawre apasa, 

to beg) 
ba, not. (Negative used 

with Present and Future 

|tenses .) 
ba, neck 
ba, to roll up 
ba, to come 
babam, some bthers 
babia, brave, skilful 
ba-deno, bachelor, widower 
badon, friend 
baghe, to crack f 
baghe, to scold, blame, 

accuse ] j 
baghsa,, to chew 
ba-ngwe, far 
bakala, shoulder, wing 
ba-kulu, goitre 
bala, young male 
ballanga, small, young 
balora, small, young 
balawro, ugly 
bane, to fry 
ban, to speak evil of 
bana, heart 
bane, to offer 

bane, to explain 
banga, bracelet 
bangane, above, on 
banto, they, them, their 
banwira, to be sad 
bar aw, pi. banna, husband 
bare, brave 
baro, pi. ra, male 
baro, pi. TVZ, accuser 
basankwyan, pi. te^, a 

poisonous snake 
basara, tobacco for snuff 
basene, pi. na, name 
bay a, pi. 

bayiro, impolite, vulgar 
bayirem, vulgarity 
be, to cross a river 
bebare, to pass behind, go 

bebegha, to gape at 
bebiko, beak 
bekera, pi. n, youth 
fo//0, pi. /^, a Moshi 
bemaw, what 

, pi. # 3;^, year 
0#g, fc, to call 
be, door-post 
bere, to walk \ 

bero, pi. r^, a walking man 



here to show, point out 

bere, to put a burden on 

bere, to faint, vanish 

bese, to insult 

besem, an insult 

besem, a form of greeting 


bi, bega, to ripen 
bi, one hundred 
bin, indistinct, vague 
biri biri, never 
bibiga, to move (refl.) 
bibtti, to roll 

bibirou, bibi title, dark green 
*/*, to dirty oneself 
bilsaga, sharpened, pre- 

bilse, to tie up 
nabino, pi. na, black man 
bio, biaw, male (animal) 
bira, pi. n', wall 
birisem, a wild plant, of 

which the bitter leaves 

are eaten 
biri kogba, behind the 


bisili, straw roof 
bisuma, child 
bobogo, pi. ro 9 hemp 
bobonga, thought, idea, 


bodori, pi. ra, hoe 
^o^, to throw stones 
boghlem, the flesh of fruit 
bokwo, pi. ^^^, robust girl 
bola, to be near 
bolo, friend, lover (a word 

used only by women) 

bone, envy, jealousy 

bona, hole 

bonga, bong, to think 

bonga, a measure calabash 

bongo, goat 

bongo, pi. bonno, root 

bonnagba, pi. bonne, 


bonnag-bu, he- donkey 
bonnag-nia, female donkey 
, in suspension | 
, to wander about 
, to cut in two 
bore, pi. r#, naked 
bore, to promise 
boredia, banana 
borem, promise 
borotyega, door 
boro-bu, key 
0r0, a good-for-nothing, 

boro, a plant 
botard, pi. r^, store, 

history, palaver 
bo tar a mole, joke 
botarebu, pi. fo'#, word 
botyanaw, lung 
botyare, heart! 
botyongo, in front of the 

#, pi. fo'tf, child, son, 

fruit, 'grain 
ra, who, which 
bua, pi. to', salamander 
bu-bala, a kid | 
bubura, to pour out, 

bu-buru, blank 



bu-dyoa, little she-goat 

buga-nayu, a bridge 

buga-yi, source 

bugi, to be tired 

bugu, buga, to soak 

bugsi, to crush ( into flour, 

bula, pi. liy a well 

bulayi, a spring ( 

bullu, rutbish heap 

bur a, reasoning, judgment 

bure, to make a mistake 

bure, an exclamation of 

bure, to spring from (of 

burse, to make a sign to 

butaro, pi. ra, orphan 

bwo, to begin 

bwom, beginning 

bwole, to untie, undo 

bwomma, without energy, 

bwona, to be proud 

bwona, pi. ne, mosquito 

bwone, to weaken 

bwono, fresh, damp 

bore, to break 

<&z, again 

da, pi. ^, -in-law (relation 
(by marriage) 

damba, host 

^ fo, no longer 

dabunga, pi. ^owwo, a log 

J^^z, pi. de, wood 

dagba, to be numerous 

daghe, to reverence, re- 

daghem, respect 

dagwonno, carpenter 

daka, pi. daghse, box 

^/<?, to shelter oneself 

dallongo, pi. wo, stick, 
cane, whip 

dtfwtf, hard, solid, strong 

dane, together with 

dane, to visit 

dane, to last 

dane, power, force 

dane, other 

dane-tu, pi. *w, |brave, 

danem, perseverance 

dangaw, pi. wo, wood put 
over the door-post to 
support the roof 

dange, to place upon 

dange, pieces of wood 
placed under the baskets 

dare, to be (idea of con- 

dare, after that, then 

dare, some others 

daw, pi. daw a, brother- 

dayataw, the day before 

de, to lay eggs 

de-ia, to soak 

de-ia> to eat, burn, be 

de, to accompany (follow 
on the road) 

de, and 

de, because 

de, dream 


de, dea, to dream 
de, pi. da, day 
debban, we, us, our 
dede, much 
dedani, evening 
dedaro, large, long, big 
dederem, the other day 
dedero, pi. ra, powerful 
dedolon, perhaps, another 


dedonkogho, spider 
dege, sterile 
dele, to throw 
dele garo yi, to weave 
delem, to tick 
dem, last year j 
dendela, hook 
dendelem, tongue 
dendia, dream 
denla (' I am sorry ' (to 

anyone who is ill) 
dentazv, this 
dere, numerous 
derogo, mould used by 

blacksmiths for making 


di, dia, to eat, burn 
di, pi. dua, species, family 
diga, pi. di 9 compound 
diga-bu, pi. bia, cat 
diga-nu, pi. wm^, mouse 
digeme, to dirty, to be 

diku, pi. ^z^rw, dirty, 

dim, yesterday 
din, na, to mount 
dio 9 hard, resisting 

pi. dina, a large 
jsnake, a python 
to rub | 
disi, to lean on 
do, eachj 

, daw, to sleep 
, each 
doe, more 
dodoa, one 

d0#?, to make a mistake 
dogha, to ride 
, sleep 

, to chew, bite 
dongo, pi. dor a, new, short, 


dongo, pi. J0/v?, old 
donne, to move 
donna de, to be equal to, 

donno, young 
^07*0, pi. na, evil, hostile 
dore, to sharpen 
d0f, to age 
dore, pi. ra, axe 
dua, tornado, rain 
dug-dua, to answer by the 

thunder, to swear 
dugu, certainly 
du-l-lui, time after the 

harvest of early millet 
du, pi. duga, to plant, 

planted, sow 
dum, planting 
duma, heavy | 
dun, planting jtime 
dundua, spring, planting, 

first rain of planting 



duni, to be heavy (of a man 
who enriches himself) 

dura, new ; (kasa dura, new 

duri, to touch lightly 

duru, spoon 

duri, vulture 

dusi, to scratch out 

driy to run 

dyong, to take 

dya-fuga, pl.fui, nail 

dya-fuk, pi. la, ring 

dyazem, right, north, right 

dyaghe, to overflow, 

dyagwia, south, left hand 

dyam-ba, to bring 

dyambatya, red grass- 

dyanni, to astonish, be 

dyan-vo, to take away 

dyana, blood 

dyana, to bleed 

dyana tiksem, bruise, con- 
tusion, hurt 

dyane, to render fruitful, 

dyane, to jump, fly 

dyang, to hold ; (dyang 
bane, be calm, be quiet) 

dyanga, to struggle 

dyankengo, pl.keno, jackal 

dyara, quarrel, fight 

dyare, to spread 

dyaro, gambling 

dyawino, pi. w^, sick person 

dyawio, ill, sickness 

dyawne, to worship 

dyaworogo, 'laziness 

dyaworo-tu, lazy 

dyawoti, net for chickens 

^, tojloose 

dyega, pi. ^y^, place 

dyege, to have 

dyeguli, handful 

djyfl*,_ pi. w^, debt 

dyene, to sit down 

dyen-fu-biaw, thumb 

dyen-fule, ring 

dyenfuga, nail (or dyafuga) 

dyenga, a man on a seat 

dyenga, pi. dye, arm 

dyengo, saddle 

dyengongo, chair 

^rtf, dispute 

dyere, to transplant 

dyere, to meet;(wow- 
pi. ro f hypocrite) 
konkulu, stump 
ta/<?, palm 

dye-togha, pi. /o^, elbow 

dye-tutogho, a stump of a 

^yz, ^y/ftf, to become 

dyidyugi, to twist 

dyira, to refuse to declare 
what one knows; (wo- 
dyiru, an extraordi- 
nary thing) 

dyoa, to-morrow ; (dyome, 
den dyoa, good morning) 

dyoa yigane, day after 

dyoghaw, pi. ro, loin-cloth 



dyogsa, to turn aside from 
pomebody with con- 
dyom, fetish; (kane dyom, 

)to sacrifice) 
dyong, to defend, protect, 

|accept j 

dyongo, special )dance in 

beating calabashes 
dyore, to hurt 
dyore, to return 
dyorega, bad ; (bad boy, 

bu dyorega) 
dyoro, soul 
dyor o, fool 
dyugi, to perplex 
dwa, sauce, garden, vege- 
fagb (a) e, fashion, to 

make peace 
fagbe, to rough-cast a wall, 

repair a house 
wo-fako, pi. fagbno, crea- 

faghe-Jia, to urinate 
fagheno, creature 
falema, to be thin 
fana, razor, scissors 
fana, vanity; (vira de 

nfana, leave me alone) 
Jane, to shave 
fang, to leap, jump 
fan/a to, formerly 
fanga-fanga, in former 

fani, winter, time of 

fanyego, heat, hot 

fara, peace ; (di fare, to 

make friends) 
fare, to make cool ; (we 

fare ne, evening) 
faro, Providence, bene- 
faro, big 

fast, completely, perfectly 
fat aw, except 
faw, to take out of a heap ; 

: (afaw bira, I take some 

fawne, to be afraid, fear ; 

(fawne-tu, coward) 
fe, to consolidate a thing 
feka, narrow 
fekse, to make narrow, be 

fela, pi. le, European 

(white man) 
fele, to bruise, crush in 


fele, pocket (garofele) 
fellaka, thin man 
fenfeta, mud 
fera, gazelle 
fera, an arrow-shaft 
fera, desire 
fere, to mend 
ferega, pi. fere, gutter 
ferega, to dirty, destroy a 

fey, very ; (a bugifey, I am 

very tired) 
fi, to oblige, be forced 
fia, urine 
figle dim, to eat 
fifio, action of forcing 



figese, to take snuff, snivel 
fike, to untie, tear off 
fin-fin, little, 'small 
finfita, mud 
finle, twenty 
finmomoa, to blow one's 


fir a, an arrow- shaft 
fire, to peel, take off the 


fire, to strike, slap 
firem, word to encourage a 

sick man suffering 
firo, sleek, bald 
fisi, to become dry 
fiu, white ant 
fofala, thin 
fofora, to scatter (fofora 

tyonga ne sa ken, let me 

fofon-vo, to move, draw 


fogha, to deny 
/0^ e><2w, to lie 
fogo, dust 
/0 <?, to whistle ; (yi tan 

fola, do not whistle) 
fole, to hurt 
folem, light 
/o/0, sheath, case 
fone, to skin 
fonfele, a bird's crop 
/0wg0, pl.fono, white ant 
/0?*, to mould 
fore rfvo, to get out ; (fofon 

vo,fore rtba, to stretch 

fue, ; the calf of the leg 

fufolo, hurt, injury 
fufugi, 'to Jput out of 

fuga, pi. finle, ten, pi. 


fugi, to frighten by scold- 

fula, to fan 
fule, to blow ; (mon-fulogo, 

a boaster)! 
/, to take a piece 

#, a fan 
#n', to sip 
fuse, to swell 
ga-buga, bangle of grass 
gaghe, to count 
gala gala, opposite, over 


gale, to cross, stride over 
galo, special dance 
galse, to stride over, go 

gamse, to alternate, white 

and black 
gane, to cut grass, coax ; 

(gane yu, to cut the 

gane, to deceive ; (mo gane 

amo, you have deceived 

ganloghe, little bag in 

which to put tobacco or 

ganem, temptation, deceit, 


gao, (grass, ibush 
gao, [other,' another 
gao gana, horse-boy 



gara, to be better 
gar dyale, blanket, cover- 
ing cloth 
gare, to recover ; (ko Ian 

gara, it is better) 
gare, to cross ; to 


garega, a bit, a bridle 
garem, a cross ; separation 
gara, bit 
garo, coat 
gar-kura, trousers 
gar-le, needle 
gar-ngwana, thread 
garyi, Moshi cloth 
gar-zeo, Moshi coat 
ga-sengo, grass for roofing 

a house 

gawro, pi. rro, paralytic 
gean, to be stupid ; 

(mogean keken, you have 


ganenga, or gena, line 
gera, rhinoceros 
gerema, to trade 
gero, to make a noise 
gigila, to turn 
gigili, to surround 
gigilu, round 
gttem, to rove around, 

gnisi 9 to gnaw 
gogorogo, corner ; (bakala 

gogoro y arm-pit) 
gong-na, to catch fish 
gongo, pi. no, hole 
0r^, to pluck feathers 
gra, how much 

gre, pi. ^, an ant-hill 

gu, to kill 

gugwole, to be crooked, 
bend, bow 

non-gugwora, dangerous 

wo-gugwora^ danger 

gula, reward 

gule, to reward 

guli, to remember 

gulu, big drum 

guni, to incline 

^tt, cotton, wild cotton 

guri, to stir, dig out 

guro, one who kills, mur- 

gursao, thorn tree 

non-guru, murderer 

gwale, to fornicate 

gwalwem, fornication, im- 

gwara, to take away the 

gzvare, to provoke in 

gware, to unite 

gwarem, union 

gwawne, to cut with a 

gwe, to cut the millet 
when the stick is down 

gwego (Moshi), a knife to 
cut horse-grass 

gweke, to break a hoe 

gwele^ to turn on some- 
body in dissatisfaction 

gwene, the wrong side, left 



gwene, to pull out jthe hair 
gwero, jleopard 
gwero, unripe 
gwi, to turn ^ 
gwio, useless, unripe 
gtooj>ba,\Q take up, root out 
gwole, a bent stick j 
gwona, to snore, lame, lag 


gwone, to blame 
gwong, to conduct, bring 

an animal 

gwonga, a bit of land 
gwonnu, marks on the face 
gwora, pi. re, handle of hoe 
gwore, to bend 
gwore, to prevent a man 

from doing something 
gwore, to gather 
gwo yi dane, to share 
gwungonga, small drum 
ka, epileptic (ka maghe 


kaba, slave 
kabakwile, heron 
kabela, small pot 
kabira, wall 
kadiga, sterile woman 
ka deno, widow 
ka dikwa, daughter of the 

kadon, name given to two 

women living with one 


kadon, another 
kaduga, farm near a com- 

kafazu, fearful, coward 

kafe,no thing, useless 
kagbse, to Ibe^miserly 
kagbsem, 'stinginess ( 
kola, little water-pot 
kala mo, quick 
kale, to cover with earth 
kale, to stir j 
kalegongo, kitchen 
kallago, pi. ro, a good 

kallanga, a bet 
kallia, a monkey 
kallifao, a hairy monkey, 
(either baboon or black 

kallongo, hawk 
kallogho, nape of the neck 
kalo, one 

kampira, provocation 
kampola, a bet 
kamse, to wink 
&;w, to open (as to open 

kana, hunger ; (kana dyege 

fye, I am hungry) 
kananga, starvation 
kande, stone 
kandelem, an edible root 

like a potato 
kandoe, pi. doa, stone 
&##, to milk, sacrifice, 

kane, pi. na, woman ; (we 

kane, first wife) 
kanem, sacrifice 
kantogho, discussion, dis- 
pute ; (maghe kantogo, to 




kanvara, red caterpillar 

kanzagba, hemp (in 
Hausa, rama) 

kanzue, white caterpillar 

kaporo, a desert place 

kara, to walk 

kara, pi. rc> farm 

kare, to tear 

karega, pi. #w, farm 

karmalaka, the palate 

&/-0, a rent, tear 

&#jtf, to cry 

kasela, a kind of cater- 

kasendyo, a blood-sucking 

kasolo(ri), sand 

kasogo, millet stalk 

&#te, self ; (tf#*0 kate, my- 

katogbo, young woman, 
woman who has no hus- 

katore, pi. tera, a bit of 

katyare, to do on purpose 

kawre, to fear, respect 

kawro, pi. ra, water-pot, 

hawse, to scrape 

&tftf/<2, little hawk 

kavanionO) brown colour 

kayampia, pi. />m, SL stool 

kayidra, time of marriage 

kayira> pi. r^, yellow-grass 
hopper good to eat 

kazogo, a wooden mortar 
(to beat millet) 

kazokera, little | ^wooden 

mortar (to mash herbs 

in for sauce) 
ke, to make (fagbe) 
kekanOy a tree 
kekare^ to roll, wrap up 
keken y perfectly, certainly 
kekia, manner, way 
kele, pi. la, cheek 
kern, manner 
kile, native belt made of 


kileme, to roll 
kembia, a pot with a big 

ken, to pass ; (vira tyonga ne 

sea ken, let me pass) 
kenka, native cake 
kenkagble, wonderful ; 

(wonkenkaghle, miracle) 
kera, to cry, weep 
kiesega, ash from the stalks 

of millet (sieri) 
kikilu, round 
kirise, to spit between 

kiru, pi. kyra, place of 

death ; (kira laro, soul of 

a dead person) 
ko, it, that, it is 
koaba, to be quick 
kodyo, exclamation 
kogba, to dry 

kogba, behind, after, back 
kogble, to put tobacco 

between the cheek and 

kogbo, dirty 



y crowd, troop, com- 

kogbse, to catch flying 
kogbse, to put in a heap 
kogo, pi. ro, feather, hair 
kokawghe, to shake dust 

out of something 
kokere, well, to do one's 


kokon, the other 
kokwo, cough 
kole, to cover 
kolo, thing, affair ; (a ba 

ke kolo, I do nothing) 
kolo, gluttonous 
konkazulo, a courtyard of 

hard-beaten mud 
konkuale, a box to put 

tobacco in 
konogo, violin 
kontaw, that, so 
kora, voice 
kora kyem, roof of the 


kua, pi. i, bone 
kukm, little, short 
kukula, big, tall 
kukule, to pack up, wrap 

in a cloth | 
kukugu, a part of, piece, 


kukura, a dog 
kukwango, pi. no, sky 
&w/#, a hump on the back 
kumunu, pi. w#, big, fat, 

kunkoro, owl 
kunkwonpuri, pigeon 

y to te 
z', to mould 
kurfm, pi. ^w^2, camel 
kunu, knot, knuckle 
^wr^, fireside, the hearth 
kura, to move 
kuri y the back, bottom 
^wn, to choose 
kursema, vivacity, rash- 


kursi y to correct 
kuru, choice 
kuruniy under 
kwald) cover (from 


kwanga, castanets 
kware, to stop, fix 
kwaw, to dig; (ba kwaw 

bone, they are digging a 


kwawba, to hasten 
kwawgha, the back 
kwawgha, a salute in enter- 

ing a compound 
kwawlema^ affairs, thing 
kwawne, to feed, stop a 


^ to roast 
kwawre, to fear 
kwawreme, to hem a 


kwawreme, to fold 
kwawte, to cut the throat 
, to be absent 
, to do good 

, time of harvest 
kwelem, end, cessation 
to cease 



kweng, to watch 

kwera, to play 

kwera, the fore part of the 


kwi, to bud 
kwia, to cough 
kwia, kwi, old, old man, 


kwian, yeast from guinea- 
corn for pito 
kwio, pi. kweno, white ant 

(eatable)]' | 
kwo, to be older 
kwo, pi. totf, father ( 
kwogho, many, plenty, 

large quantity | ,! 
kwola kwola, slowly I I 
kwola, to pick up, 'take 

away, cover J i i 
kwone, to open one's eyes 
kwonno, to rear up M , | 
kwora, throat, a horn ! [ ' 
kwore, to finish ! (^w^ 

kwore, rain has stopped) 
&y.f, to brush, to comb 
kyene, arrow? [' 
kyiro, pi. W, |a 'man or 

Iwoman ' who ' changes 

linto a fire during the 

night | 1 1 J 
kyiru, pi. r^, spirit] 
lagha, willing 
laghe, : to look, seekj 
laghem, will, pleasure 
laghese, to lap 
/0, pi. ro, good 1 1 
lama, pretty, fine, good 
Ian, after, then | 

langa, in (speaking of 

lange, to taste 
lango, pi. no, a I mark, 


lan-kan, now, then 
lanyirane, very well, good 
/tff, to stay together to 


lare, to untie (a cloth) 
laro, fruit of locust-bean 

lawghe, to break a calabash 

or a bottle 

lawraw, pi. ra, mason 
lawre, to dodge, steal 
foora, to beg 
le, Ito clean a farm 
/*?, |to thank. Thank you ! 
le, lega, to shut, -attach, 

hang ' 

lea, fear, uneasiness 
leghra, agony , 
leke, to lift something 
lela, quick | 
lele, now \ , 
M/w, pi. /^/w^z, Iblind 
Jena, to sing 
/^^, to exchange) 
lene, to sing j 
lenga, song 
lenhsi, !to stand on one's 

feetf I 'I ] 
lensi, to chew tobacco 
lere, to janswer 
lerema, jwet ! 

?, 'answer, weariness, 



lest, to cut millet, leaving 
the stalk standing 

lia, li, to mind 

li, to mend 

li, to swallow, stop a hole 

tiUagbt, to look for in the 
middle of ashes 

lillero, saliva, spittle 

lilliru, thick 

lime, to cover again 

lio, an awl 

liri, to draw something 
out of water 

liri, medicine ; (piazv liri, 

list, to plunge, upset, dis- 

lot, to smell, feel 

logbe, to deliver, beget, to 

logo, world 

loma, to desire 

lorn, to imitate 

lona, to speckle 

lone, to heat, warm 

lone, to remember a want 

lone, to imitate 

lonem, imitation 

long, to smell 

longa, to avoid 

longo, bad 

lora de, festival 

lore, to begin, be the first 

lore, to learn, know 

loro, gut, entrails 

loron, enmity, hatred 

lu, to'dipjinto some sauce, 
to forge 

lua, pi. lui, ceremony of 

funeral custom j || 
lu(ga), to scrape 
luga, pi. lui, a francolin 
lugu, iron 

lullona, pi. ne, crevice 
lullongo, perspiration, heat 
lum, to warm ; (lum na, 

to boil some water) 
luma, deep 
luo, an awl (sa luo for 

making native mats) 
lura, to leak 
luri, to digest 
lust, to drive into 
magbe, to strike 
maku, pair of pincers 
mama, all 
mana, proof, success, good 

luck I 

mane, to remark, to prove 
mang, to adjust, fit up, 

share ; equal, equalise 
mangem, line 'mark, 

mang . . . ni, to try (mang 

poponem n'ni, try to 


mankaro, small bustard 
mankaronao y pi. ;/#, 

greater bustard 
manlaa, chameleon : 
manlatanga, rainbow 
mantawro, toad 
mantyifo, matches (ob- 
viously a corruption of 

mantyogho, grasshopper 

I 44 


mao, eagle 

maw, to draw up some 


mawne, to make some pots 
mawra, pus 
me, to use 

me, to accustom one's jself 
meem, habit, custom 
meem, a tool used ;by a 

mela, a little 
mele, to be in great number 
mele, to dress a loin-cloth 

between 'the legs 
meme, slowly, with caution 
memmanga, history ; (mang 

memmanga,to tell a story) 
memmila, little black ant 
memmina, thin 
mena, guinea-corn 
mere, to crush in pieces 
mi, to besprinkle 
mia, bamboo 
milem, to wrap jabout 
mini, fire ; (min tyala, 

miregem, mockery 
mizongo, a lamp 
mo, you, your 
mo, here is, there is 
moa, a stick to fix an 

arrow in 

mole, easy, good price 
momago, pi. TO, dumb 
mommao, to stammer 
mome, nose 

, to draw up some 

water out of a well 

morogo, moro, thousand 

mumuna, rice 

munu, flour 

muri, little, not enough 

mwona, to laugh 

mz, if, unless 

na, water 

nabare, grandfather 

nabarega, stream 

na-bengo, pi. no, cow dung 

nabili, tail 

nabino, pi. w^, a human 

nabira-nongo, a big 

nabogo, middle of a com- 

nabono, bugle, musical in- 

nabtoo, brother 

nadia, a nervous sickness 

na-dunno, rich man 

naga, pi. ne, foot, calf, 
root, branch 

nag-done, knee 


nago, pi. w/?, cow (w# #, a 
calf ; na-bala, a young 

nag-pire,the sole of the foot 

nag-tene, a ladder 

natyoro, spur 

nagwino, pi. wtf, small mos- 

nagwoa, a pond 

fw/f0, shepherd 

nankampona, pi. w^, the 
lesser egret 



nakena, sister-in-law 
nakera, a big pot for water 
naklakao, small bustard 
nakongo kuri, the ham 
nakula, the heel 
nakuriy pi. ra, buttock 
nakwaw, sister 
nakwion, pi. kwi, grand- 
father, old man 
nanmandyua, pepper 
namara^ quiver 
namen-bu, the toe 
namuna, pi. ni, a horn used 

as a musical instrument 
nandyua, pi. e, fly 
naniom, thirsty 
nantyale, testicle 
nantyana, pi. ne, bangle 

made of grass 
nantyane, thin grass to 

make small baskets 
nanugri, pi. ra, sweet 


nanwale, tobacco 
nao, pi. ro, grandson 
napana, pi. ne, a sling 
napire, the sole of the foot 
narge, to refuse to obey 

your master 

nase, to trouble somebody 
nasingo, red 
natira, boot 
natongo, an opening made 

in a roof 
natulenga, pi. /j, great 

natye, pi. #, young cow, 


natyegha, walking-stick 
natyera, pi. re> the calf of 

the leg 
nawne^ to crush in pieces, 

bruise, knead 
nayila, milk ; (nayila nuga, 


nayongo, pi. no, leper 
wdiyw, terrace 
ndon, six 
w^, in, towards, me ; (pa ne, 

give me) 

ne^ pf. ^, to look, see 
ni, pf. w^, to under- 
stand, hear 
nifane, deceit, cheat 
nem, sight 
nena, it is raining 
ngnisa, to gnaw, pick with 

the teeth 

ngwana, rope, string 
ngwane, for, in favour of 
ngwanno, ^nerve, vein, 

artery |< 
ngwe, to be near 
ngwa, pi. we> guinea- worm 
ngwe, to pay 
ngwe, to live 
ngwem, payment 
ngwem^ life 
ngwene, theft 
ngwenga, pi. ##, good 
ngwenno, pi. w^, the living 
ngweno, thief 

w^o, to spin, weave, twist 
ngzvogbe, to thieve 
ngzvolo, a ring to make 

a hoe stronger 



ngzvone, to swell 
ngwone, 'to speak 
ngwongo, ;vein, artery 
ngwuna, to buzz, grumble 
ni, pi. nia, mouth, edge, 
sharp, cutting, muzzle, 
ni 9 time ; (ni de de, several 


ni, pf. niga, to hear, un- 
derstand j 
ni, pf . nia, to Jlook 
ni, to be tired 
niane, younger brother 
nieniego, colour 
ni koro, moustaches 
niku, looking-glass 
nim, look (act of seeing) 
nima, lassitude, fatigue, 


nina, pf. niga, to rain 
nine, to have in abund- 
ni-nue, the fleshy covering 

of the teeth 
nisa, to disgust 
ni-tonnogo, lip 
n'le, two 
n'na, four 
nnana, eight 
nnobogo, nine 
nnu, five 

noa, pi. TW, finger 
none, pi. w#, flesh, meat 
nong, to go out 
nongo, scorpion 
nonggwole, a reservoir to 
receive flour 

nong mint, a stone which is 

used to grind millet 
nongo y a stone on which 

millet is ground 
non-kwian, pi. km, old 


nonnanga, native dancing 
nono, pi. na, man, people 
non-pongo, white man 
non-zono, black man 
wtaw>, three 
##, pi. wm<7, mother ; (nu 

nakwian, grandmother) 
nuga, shea-butter (oil) 
nuge, to be fat 
nuguri-garo, blanket 
nu-kuna, joint, knuckle 
nyane, to sew 
nyange, to walk 
nyake, to answer violently 
nyaw, to drink 
nyawne, to be sick 
wy^, to make one's drink 
nye t to shine 
nyeghle, to obey with 

nyem, appearance 
nyena, father 
nyene, to appear 
nyene, to liquefy, melt 
nyenga, an animal horn 
nyengo, crocodile 
nyenyego, image, likeness, 


nyona, to be sour 
nyone, chest 
nyua, smoke 
nyuan, meat broth 



nyuri, profit 

o, he, his , 

odon, pi. badona, the other, 


ontaw<) this, that 
or a, to be, exist 
owo, no 
p, the, that 

pa, bile, choler (sickness) 
pa, pea, to give, given; 

(zo dyene, to borrow) 
pa, to drive ; (pa garem 

bangane, to crucify) 
pale, to vaunt 
palle, to hang 
^ ane, to support, set upon, 

press upon 
pana, to weave 
pare, wall 
^>tff<?, to seek eagerly for, 

pursue, take down 
pare, to reign, have power 


pare, peg 
parege, to curse 
patore, comet 
^w;, pl.pogba, to be rotten 
pawre, to share, to 


pawrem, explanation 
pay a, jaw, jawbone 
/>, to pick up 
pegha, salutation; (akem 

pega, I greet you) 
pelapogho, square 
pele, to hang; (pelebankale, 

to hang on the shoulder) 
pele, to spill 

, to lie down 
pepagba, to shake a coat 
pepangha, temple of the 

pepela, to light ; (dua 

pepela, the lightning) 
pere, p. present 
pere, proper, to be clean 
pere, [to flatter, to dry 
pi, to shut up 
pi, to beat the floor 
pi, to pick up ground-nuts 
pi, pi. ^0, yam 
^>z'tf, pi. jpfl*, sheep ; (pe bia, 

(ram ; pe nia, ewe ; pe 

pela, lamb) 
piaw, pi. /0#, chief ; (/>z#; 

zwf0, umbrella) 
piawgo, pi. r0, gun 
piazv-lire, gunpowder 
pilma, a bangle made from 


^'fl0, to cheat at play 
pine, to press, to oblige 
pino, obligation, force ; 

(pino diga, prison) 
pino, pi. na, prisoner 
pipi, to trade 
pipini, to roll 
pipino, trader 
pire, to make white 
pire, to fold, to bow 
piri, to break, destroy 
pise, to clean, wipe 
pisie, duck (wild) 
^>*, hill, mountain 
j poamena, maize (kamana) 



podtaro, interpreter 

pogho, nest 

poghle, to move, disturb 

poghle, water-bubble 

pogbo, bark, peel 

pola, unripe fruit 

pola, interval 

pole, to satisfy 

pole, to bet, promise 

pole, to do on purpose 

pollagba, flat 

pollawgbo, large 

polo, bastard 

poma, to be light 

pompala, beds of earth 

made to plant seeds in. 

Used also for the main 

roads because they are 

pona, fringe 
pone, the light 
pone, desert, outside 
pone, to skin a beast 
ponga, pi. poe, shelter 
pongo, pi. ne, white ; (mena 

dyega pongo, the millet 


poo poo, to watch, wait 
popanga, slap, to slap 
popara, to sparkle, to 

jopawno, tree, the bark of 

which is used to tie 


popawro, to speckle 
popio, grey, blue 
popoma, to be light 
popone, to write 

popono, manure 

popuga, to rub, /to shake 

the dust off 
popura, to itch 
pore, to claw 
pogo, !pl./0, bark 
pote, to report, make a 

pu, to shut 
pu-fara, gluttonous 
puga, belly 
puge na, to swim j 
pugi, to find ' 
pugu, a cork, i.e., a stopper 
/>#/, to fill, to satisfy 
puni, entire, complete 
punu, flower, a bud 
pupura, speckle 
puri, to open 
pusempuga, froth, spume 
pusogbo, duck (wild) 
pwe, to wait for 
re, also 
reban, we, us 
s, that, to the end that 
sabara, thorn 
sabe, amulet, letter 
sabilo,pl, la, boy, horseboy 
sage, to fix a price to 


sage de, I have confidence 
sagem, confidence 
sale, to support, to lean 
salema, glass, bottle 
salesya, ant 
jtf/0;*, gold 
sam, to wash (J^TW dyian, 

to wash hands) 



sambuli, top 

sampora, prophet 

sana, pito, beer 

sane (sine), porcupine 

sang, to take summons 

sango, pi. no, side, rib 

sange, to be next, sit by 

sange, to cook 

sange, grass which is used 
to make native mats 

sanguelene, a locust-bean 

sankora, a sickness 

sanyiga, west 

sara, mat 

jvzr#, stick to roof 

sare, to make thin, sharpen 

sase, to excite 

sase, to tease 

jtfw, which ? who ? 

sawle, to curse 

se, that, to the end that 

se, pi. sua, fruit of shea- 
butter tree when ripe 

se, ivory bangle 

se, to take a bath 

sea, to agree, to answer 

sebaro, pi. w#, enemy 

sebu, pi. z'tf, cowrie 

j^w, ablution, baptism 

segke, to hide 

seghem, secret 

j/, hammer of black- 

sele, poisoning of arrows 

sele, to tempt 

sellegra, the hiccough 

sembuli, flower of locust- 
bean tree 

sempira, a stick to beat the 

floor with 

sene, to salute, greet 
sene, towards, near by 
sene, sickle 
sen-yagbele, calabash of a 

sensola, le, fable, story, 

sera, to slip 
sera, evidence ; (sera tu, 

sesogba yela, to gnash the 


si, to rest, breathe 
si, to fill, load 
sia, peas 
sibia, pi. sibi, a st'ck to 

beat millet with 
sie, to forget 
sien, ash from millet stalks 
sien sieon, quick ! quick ! 
sero, locust-bean pod 
siga, a ball of prepared 


sigi, to reflect 
silegha, the hiccough 
sin, to stop a hole 
sine, on purpose 
sine, to make red, to ripen 
singo, red 
sio, knife 
siokaro, sickle 
jm?, to grow rusty 
sirekwe, hedgehog 
siri, to let loose (leaves 

which fall down from 



sisagro, a cold in the head 
sisanga, pi. sise, horse 
sisene, boundary ' i 
sisenga (bit), a baby 
sisinga, to grumble, 

rumble as thunder 
so, to love, like 
sofaro, a fine big house 
sogba, to sew 
soghe, to give advice 

(either good or bad) 
so go, noise 

sole gole, to make food 
so ma, to be sweet 
sone, beans 
.KWgtf, pi. no, shea-butter 


songo, pi. san, a compound 
j-owflo, millet ear 
sone, to attend a sick jman 
J07W, pi. na, lovely 
sore, soft 
J0r0, sticky ' 

sorose, splinter , 

sara, tobacco reduced to 

powder either to chew 

or snuff 
su, to fill 
sua, intelligence, reason, 


sugi, to frighten 
sugu, pi. ne, guinea-fowl 
suit, to bury 
sulle, to put a pot on 

another pot 
sulon, red ant ; 
sunnuga, pi. nui, ground- 


sura, to grumble softly 
susugu, to shake a man, to 

awaken him 
ta, again ; tata, after 
ta, to shoot an arrow 
tabele, to paste 
ta-bia, seeds of tobacco 
ta */#, a stick which is used 

for pipes 
tadoa, pipe 
taghe, to say, to tell ' 
takere, the hip ' 

to hold flat on the 

(hand underneath 

to smooth with the 


tama, insipid 
tambola, smallpox 
tampogho, leather ba 
tan, continually ! 
tana, to touch, feel in the 

tane, to put one near 

tanfiro, currier, a leather- 

tanga, a bow 
tange, to make a mark with 

|a finger, draw j 
tangola, a plant which is 

[used for face-marking 

after cutting 
tangwam, sacred place ' ' 
tankawlo, skin ready for 


tannogo, ball of tobacco | , 
tasawro, a steel to strike a 

jlight with { ' 


tasugu, a lid made of 


tata, again 
tato, so, as 
taw, what ? 
taw, to fall down 
tawghe, to | follow, f ac- 
company j 

tawghno, pi. na, follower 
tawgbo, pi. ro, abuse 
tawke, to carry a child on 

one's shoulder 
tawle, to shout from com- 
pound to compound 
tawne, to vomit 
tawne, beard 
tawno, hunting-man 

tawre, to light 

te, give me j 

te, to pour some water 

te, to belong to 

te, to be 'near 

te, how { 

te,;pf. tea, to pick up 

te, to respect, glorify ' < 

te,jpl. toe, fruit of [baobab 

tele, to look after, nurse 

teken, teken, always 

tern, |to cough | 

tern, property 

tem-baro, [father-in-law 

ten, ,to stretch the arm 

tene, home 

tene, to mend ' 

teng, to press between two 
stones ' 

tenga, loins; (tenga ne, side) 

ten-kane, mother-in-law | 

teo, pi. tero, baobab 
teponga, dry season 
tera, not, not present 
tere, pi. ra, wild boar 
teri tera, different things 
tero, pi. ra> master 
tetare, middle (wea tetare 

\ne, noon) 

tetar-nua, |middle finger 
tetawgo, a basket 
tetaw-kera, little (basket 
tete, self 
tete, night 

tete-kazvro, midnight 
tetoe, a rat -, 
tetogha, the chin 
/^^w^, to draw back 
tetonno-tetonno , frequently 
tetyaka, pi. fetyagbse, |fa- 
F mine, scarcity 
//, to end, finish 
ft', to string,pearls 
ti, to sneeze 

ft'tfw, pi. tint, a granary 
ft^, earth, ground, 


tikera, small granary for 
[ground-nuts ! 

tikse, to assemble, join, 

tiksem, assembly, reunion 

tiller o, mortar ( ' I 

tin, dua tin, it is raining 

tine, to pay 

tine, to endeavour 

ting, to keep, preserve, put 

tingu, deposit 

tintaro, mud 



tio 9 pl. tene, a tree; (tio bia, 


tio, pi. tini, village, com- 
tire 9 to bend 
tiri 9 forehead 
tiro 9 earth, tillage, good 

titige 9 to wipe, anoint, 


'to 9 pi. tua, dead 
toa, pf. **#*, f. ft', dying, 

to die 

toa 9 little ant 
togha, a stick used to make 

holes to plant millet 

tonge, to work, send, give 


tontawrem, ash 
tontonga, work ; (tontongna, 

to work the whole day) 
tore, to sit on one's heels 
tore, to take some, to 


toro 9 sugar, a sweet thing 
tosa 9 big black ant 
tra, to itch 

tu, pi. fr'fl0, master, owner 
tu 9 elephant 
tui 9 to come frequently 
tula, pi. U 9 granary 
tule 9 doing in the wrong 

way ; (motule, you are a 


//*, to pass again 
turn, death (turn de, the 

day of death) 

tuntunga, labour ; (tuntung 

tu 9 the labourer, i.e., 

the owner of labour) 
turi, to draw on the 


turi, to anoint 
turn, anointing 
tusi, to lose the road, be 

lost in the bush 
ty 9 to abuse 
tya 9 to smoke 
tyago, a pot with many 

holes to water fowls 
tyagoa, pieces of iron 
tyake, to be happy 
tyala 9 embers, charcoal 
tyale, to take hold of 

somebody by surprise 
tyalega, prodigal 
tyama, bitter, bad ; 

(moyagha tyama, you 

are selling dear) 
tyampongo, pi. no, chain 
tyana, suffering, pains 
tyana, moon, month 
tyana, copper 
tyanina, hail 
tyara, early millet 
tyara, to have diarrhcea 
tyare, to make a present 

with a view to obtaining 

a favour in the future 
tyare, to winnow 
tyasa, to comb one's beard 
tytf /^perfect, entire 
tyasega, a comb 
tyavira, ashamed 
tyawghe, to be spoilt 



tyawgtfno, a man who 

tyawgbse, catching 

tye, to lead 

tye, to fence 

tyefeo, a basket for carry- 
ing chickens in 

tyega, the truth 

tyegele, charcoal 

tyeghe, to watch, surprise, 

tyeghe, to keep silence, 
stop a noise 

tyelema, tomato 

tyem, to be quiet 

tyene, stinginess 

tyenfone, soap 

tyenge, pi. no, hippopota- 

tyeng, to forbid 

tyepuga, twenty cowries ; a 
fibre which is used to 
wrap round an arrow to 
hold it in the shaft 

tyera, difficulty, painful 

tyere, to cut into pieces 
with the teeth 

tyere, to wipe with the 

tyerese, to spit between 
the teeth 

tyese, to be disgusting 

tyesega, ash of millet 

tyesem, disgust, dislike 

tyetyare, pi. ra, egg 

tyi, spear 

tyi, to stop by force 

tyiaw, hard, difficult, tire- 

tyiUeme, pi. ma, the eye- 
teeth or fang 

tyim, abuse 

tying, to dispute 

tyiro, proper brother 

tyityawgbe, to spoil (a boy) 

tyityawko, spoilt boy 

tyityero, half 

tyityira, pi. ri, devil child 

tyityo, mad 

tyityongo, bad character 

tyityorogo, a mysterious 

tyo, to pinch 

tyo, pi. #, a locust-bean 

#y0, to be mad 

tyoa, to watch, look after 

tyogo, pi. ro, a net 

tyogho, water-pool 

tyolon, friend 

tyom, to grind 

tyonga, pi. tye, road ; (^/^ 
tyonga, to travel) 

tyonga, pi. /y^, quiver 

tyonge, to sting 

tyongo, a poison used by 
the Builsa to kill people 
with in ordeals 

tyora, to boil 

to share 

, to cover with earth, 
heap up 

pi. tyene, fowl (tyo- 
bu, young fowl ; tyo- 
bio, cock ; tyo-nia, 


tyotyatvgbe, a boy who is 

doing what he likes 
tyotyawko, a boy who is 

tyu, to drive a stick in the 


tyua, pi. a, thigh 
tyuga, to jump down 
tyula, to forbid, hate 
tyulatyut, stars 
tyulem, hatred, hate 
tyuli, to hate 
vallo, farmer 

van, lies, falsehoods ; an 
expression invariably 
used to preface a re- 
butment of an accusa- 

vanga, pulling 
vanne, refusing to give 
vao, the mane of an 


vare, to plough 
varo, pi. ra, animal 
varongo, bestiality 
vase, to pull suddenly 
vata, a lean jman 
vaw, pi. voro, leaf / 
vaw, ! to consult a sorcerer 
vawghe, to tie, chain ; 

(vawghe ni, to fast) 
vawro, pi. */tffl, a hoe 
;*, pf. ^^, to 'disobey, 

vean, poison 

^ to walk '(a ve, I go ; 
a vele, I went ; a o vo> 
I shall go) 

venga, departure, walking 

vera> to walk 

vere, to scrape from one's 


vere, to save, steal by force 
vere-nO) Saviour 
vero, stranger 
vesa, filthy, dirty 
vevaghe^ to move oneself 
vi, to ask, beg several 

times, claim 
vi y to dive into 
vila, cartridge 
vio, the wind 
viri, to go away 
viri) to knead, dilute ; (vir 

mumi) to put flour into 


viviri, to turn round 
voe, to sit on eggs 
vom, consultation 
vom, a girth, thong 
vongo, pi. no, the shoulder 
voro, pi. ra, sorcerer 
vovaghe, to move oneself 
vuri, to bite ; (tyere, to 

make a notch) 
vusemvunga, pi. vusenvi^ a 

wasp that builds mud- 


vuvuge, 'to agitate 
wrf, to be Capable, jhave 

wanga, pity, mercy ; ^n- 

wanga, to pity 

to punish, stop rain- 

, to salute, pray 


war em, prayer 

warem, penitence, sorrow 

ware-zonga, basin 

waro, cold 

was a, to speak in a low 

waw, who, which 

waw, to fry 

waw-nua, the ring-finger 

way, nothing' 

we, sky, weather, the at- 
mosphere ; i (wete, at 
what time'; we ne, in 
the air) 

we, that, because 

we, God ; (we o dyan 'ko yi 
n'songo, good-bye) 

we, to bark 1 

we a, the sun; (den we a, 
good day) 

weke, to press and open a 

were, to warm, Isit near 

were, to wipe away 

wero, dirty, dust! 

wi, an anvil 

wi, to pick up 'ground- 
nuts with their leaves 

wi, to evaporate 

wila, to be sick 

willum, hot, heavy weather 

wio, pi. f0, hole of a hoe to 
put the handle in 

wio, character of a man, 
state of a person 

wire a lane wira, I am sad 

wiri, to blow fire 

wiru, pi. r#, hyena 
wissi, perfectly 
wiu, yellow 
wo, pi. ro, belly 
wo-fagh, creature 
wogela, pi. /<?, a little edible 


wokoro, empty 
wolla, to add 
wolle, to help 
wollem, help, assistance 
wo-lim, an incomplete 

thing, part 
wollonge, a bad thing, bad 


wo-dua, seeds 
wongo, pi. wonno, thing, 


w, in, inside ( 
wore, to be cured, recover 
worem, cure, recovery 
w>0f to to to, expression of 

woro, shade ; (piaw woro, 

umbrella, i.e., a Chief's 

shade : an expression 

due to the white 

man's presence not of 

Ashanti origin) 
wu, to blow a horn, whistle 
wua, pi. wi, a whistle* 
wunga, a gazette 
wure, 'to grumble, like 

thunder and wind 
ya, particle !which shows 

the imperfect 
yaghe, to leave off, aban~ 

don, forsake 


i S 6 


yale, to make wide, scatter 

ya j ema, large, wide 

ya na, since 

yare, to suffer 

yaw, without value, 


yawlo, an ostrich 
ye, to yawn 
ye, pi. yua, a forked stick 

which supports the ter- 
races in the hill farms 
ye, to be 
ye, to marry (give in 

ye, salt 
ye, to know, acknowledge, 

pay attention 
ye, where ? which place ? 

'(00 ye mo ? where is he ?) 
yede, wintertime 
yegba, pi. ye, market 
yeghe, to buy, to sell 
yele, pi. la, tooth 
3>^w, to leave 
yenna, learned men 
yera, guinea-corn (red or 


yere, ignorant 
yere, to learn 
yerego, pi. ro, the forge of 

a blacksmith 
yereponga, to lie down on 

the back 

yero, pi. rro, blacksmith 
ye tene, where from ? 
yeyegbe, to move, shake 
yeyelaghe, to agitate a 

liquid in a pot 

yi, to penetrate, go 

yi, pi. yia, eye ; (yi t'ono, 

eyelid ; yi kogo, eye- 

yi, to have, obtain, grow 
yia, frafra potato 
yibse, to beckon with one's 


yiem, ownership, good 
yiga, pi. yi, face, figure, 

visage ; (yiga yiga, very 

far ; a ti a yiga, I am 


yigu, witness in marriage 
yila, breast ; (ngwoghe yila, 

to soak) 
yige, to push ; (yigi n'di, 

to pull down) 
yila yila, dawn 
yinniga, misery, want ; 

(yinniga-tu, poor man) 
yipura, pride 
yira, body; (yi'ra 3>mz, 

separately ; a yira sore, 

I feel myself sore all over 
yire, to watch 
yire, pi. ^z>^, name 
ym, to retake 
yirr, silence 
yo, here 
3>0/0, bag 
yoma, good to eat ; (yoma 

ko doe, better) 
yone, goodness ; (nonyone, 

good man) 
yone, pi. na, fish; (yone- 

dela, a fish-hook) 



yongo, courteous, generous 
yore, to leave one road and 

take another 
yore, to melt 
yrane, alone 
yu, to crush into pieces 
yu, pi. yuni, head 
yueya, twin 
yuleo, pi. ro, comb 
yunge, to brew, dilute 
yu-tu, pi. ta'fltf, superior 
za, an exclamation 
z0, to shake (something) 

in a basket 
zaghe, to change 
zaghe, to cut with an axe 
zam, to mix with one's 


zamse; to study, learn 
zan, good, well 
z#/z, to greet, salute 
zane, to mix food in water 
zanem, diluting, mixing 
zange, to stand up, lift 

up, awake 
zango, big 

zarbe, to be worn out 
zare, to make a horse run 
zare, hammer of a black- 
zawghe, to beat in a 


zawre, to sweep, to brush 
zawse, to have pity ; (# 

z# tf a pa, I pity) 
z<?, pf. zega, to burn 
z<?, to finish 
ze, millet 

to stop, wait ; (zege 

wene, to stand up) 
zegera, standing there 
zei 9 pf. zei 9 to scratch 
zei, to take a bit out of a 


zei, pi. zo^, a broom 
zela, load ; (zela-tu, 


z^, to drive, put to flight 
zem, to-day 
zeng, to carry, lift up 
zenzegane, morning 
zera, a present 
zere, to weigh 
zere, to wash, clean 
zerebi, old clothes, rag 
zezagha y watering, to 


zezegbe, to shake 
zezonno, rag 
zim, quiet, silence 
zin, steadfastly 
zizi 9 to spread 
zo, to go in, to prepare 

one's clothes when a 

woman is married 
zokogbo, deaf 
zombaro, pi. TVZ, big 

brother, big sister 
zone, hare 
zore, to get dark ; (tiga 

zore, it is getting dark) 
zonga, pi. z^w, calabash 
zongo, pi. wo, beads 
zono, black 
zor^, to be black 
zore, to lay down a load 

I S 8 


zorem, an entrance 
zula, respect, to please 
zulugUy hammock 
zuma, to hurt, be painful 
zumpogho, a nest 
zunga, pi. na, bird 
zunzunga, rag 
zunzonno, completely 
worn out 

zura, humidity, coolness, 

peace, health 
zura, to be late, come 


zeri, to make cool 
zurum, humidity, coolness 
zuzuge, to shake 
zuzura, slowness 







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University of Toronto 








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